Former City Controller Jonathan Saidel, a candidate yesterday for lieutenant governor, was targeted by a robocall around the city Monday that linked him to the Ku Klux Klan. The woman who made the recorded calls claimed she was supporting another candidate in the Democratic primary election, former Commonwealth Court Judge Doris Smith-Ribner. Ribner tells us she had nothing to do with the call.
PhillyClout has obtained a partial recording of the call, in which the woman asks if "Saidel is running for controller or for grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan."
Here's the rest of the script: "It is no secret that Saidel has not been a friend of our community. But now, he thinks he can buy off a few ward leaders and we will all vote for him. Not me. I am voting for one of us: Doris Smith-Ribner. Doris has fought racial stereotypes all her life, rising to be the first African American elected to the Commonwealth Court. Please join me in voting for Doris Smith-Ribner for lieutenant governor. This call paid for by Pat Wilson."
So who is Pat Wilson? We're still trying to find out. Ribner says she'd like to know. "Many people have been wondering who this person is," she told us. "I don't know what to say. I have no idea who this person is."
Saidel is locked in a still-undecided race with the third candidate in the primary, Scott Conklin. Saidel spokesman Marty Marks said his campaign doesn't know who ran the robocall. "To suggest that Jonathan Saidel, of Jewish heritage and a champion of civil rights for his whole career, has anything to do with the KKK is disgusting," Marks said. "It’s politics at its worst"
The root of this political attack may have been a racially tinged dust-up from 1993, when Saidel told a mostly white crowd in Northeast Philly that he opposed school busing plans that shipped kids to "parts of the city that look like East Beirut." Then City Councilman Michael Nutter made a speech in Council a few days later, saying he thought Saidel was "running for city controller, not grand wizard."