Clarke calls for election to fill empty seat

The May primary just got a little more interesting.

Council President Darrell L. Clarke announced Tuesday that he would call for a special election in May to fill the at-large Council seat vacated by Bill Green, now the chair of the School Reform Commission.

The Democratic and Republican parties must nominate their candidates to appear on the ballot by April 8. (Independent parties or candidates need to circulate petitions and gather at least 1,785 signatures by then to run in the special election).

Because the Democrats enjoy an overwhelming edge in voter registration, the special election basically means that party insiders can hand-pick a successor for Green.

Most political insiders expect the party to use the special election to resolve a family feud – the most likely candidate is the looming primary battle between state Rep. Ed Neilson and state Rep. John Sabatina Jr. Because of redistricting, Neilson, a former political director for Local 98 of the electricians’ union, was forced to run against Sabatina, the son of a powerful ward leader in Northeast Philadelphia.

Filling an at-large vacancy on Council isn’t considered as urgent as filling a vacancy among the district Council members, who have to be much more responsive to constituent requests. Whoever wins on May 20 also must face re-election next year, when all the Council seats are on the ballot.

But because Green resigned with nearly two years left on his term, Clarke said, “I thought it would be prudent to go ahead and call a special (election).”

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