Former City Councilwoman Carol Ann Campbell, long one of Philadelphia's most influential power-brokers, died today, according to city officials. She had been seriously ill for many months.
Campbell represented the city's Fourth Council District for just over a year, but her influence arguably exceeded that of even long-serving elected officials. She was the consummate party insider - a ward leader and secretary of the city Democratic Committee - someone who other political players could ill afford to flout or ignore. Her alliance with Rep. Bob Brady, chair of the city committee, was unshakable.
Mayor Nutter, who was a Campbell ally before he run for mayor, promptly issued a statement after her death was announced.
"I was saddened to learn of the death of Ms. Carol Ann Campbell. Carol spent a lifetime serving her neighborhood, her community, and her city. She was a stalwart of the Democratic Party and was a major figure in the world of Philadelphia politics," Nutter's statement said. "When I first entered public service, Carol was a source of encouragement, information and insight. It is the help and support that she provided to me that I remember and reflect upon at this time. This is a very sad day for Philadelphia."
Campbell loved to talk: about the party, about the little people (her constituents), and about the many fools she would not suffer. She used a cell phones like a stilletto, cutting deals, calling in favors, disemboweling enemies. She was replete with off-color phrases, such as: "Don't pee in my face and telling me its raining."
Her political influence was greatest in little noticed contests, such as judicial elections, where her support - obtained in part through hefty contributions to her favored political committees - was often enough to tip the balance.
She was a famously tough brawler.
Councilman Curtis Jones defeated the incumbent Campbell in the 2007 primary, only to find himself the very public target of a city Inspector General investigation based on anonymous complaints about the terms of his employment and severance package from the Philadelphia Commercial Development Corporation. Campbell was widely suspected to be behind it, though she denied it.
"She's had a lot of gangsta in her," Jones said with reverence.
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