Among those not mourning the fall of State Rep. Dwight Evans from his post as Democratic House Appropriations Committee chairman is electricians union chief John J. Dougherty.
Dougherty, aka Johnny Doc, told Heard in City Hall this week that he was only "Watching from afar," when Evans lost his post as the committee's ranking Democrat, which he had held for 20 years. But sources say just because Dougherty was far from Harrisburg doesn't mean his cell phone wasn't on fire.
Over the summer, Dougherty had a blowup with Ahmeenah Young, president and CEO of the Convention Center and a close Evans ally, over work rules and the division of labor among trade unions at the expanded Convention Center. On Wednesday Dougherty blamed Evans for the Convention Center showdown, and said Evans put young Democratic legislators in “an awkward position” by at refusing to call the House back into session to vote on the pension reform bill. House leadership eventually relented.
“For a really smart guy, I think he’s made some questionable decisions in the last few months,” said Dougherty, whose union’s political action committee has supported a number of those in the Philadelphia delegation, including State Reps. Bill Keller, Michael McGeehan, Rosita Youngblood, Michael O’Brien and John Sabatina Jr.
State Rep. Bill Keller, an old Dougherty ally, was among those leading the charge to unseat Evans, according to sources familiar with the day’s events. Keller has bumped up against the House Democratic leadership almost from the moment he entered the House in 1993.
"Our success in electing a new leadership team was a major step to open up the process and change how things are done in Harrisburg,” Keller said through a spokesman this week. “As a caucus we are now moving forward in a new reform-minded direction, with leaders who are committed to a more open and cooperative environment where all members have a voice. I am proud to join my colleagues in being a part of this reform effort."
In 2010 alone, Dougherty's International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers committee gave at least $75,000 to Keller’s campaign, $25,000 to McGeehan, $5,000 to Youngblood and $2,000 to Sabatina, according to the Department of State website.
O'Brien, who openly opposed Evans, came out of the Dougherty camp and is Keller's cousin, though O'Brien and Dougherty have reportedly butted heads recently. The Inquirer reported Thursday that up to nine members of the Philadelphia Democratic caucus turned on Evans, though the ballot was secret. State Rep. Angel Cruz, who did not receive money from IBEW this year, was also strongly against Evans.
Dougherty said those who believed Evans funneled money to his and surrounding districts, instead of the whole city, will take their chances with new House leadership, even if they're not from Philadelphia.
“It’s well understood where Dwight spent his money,” Dougherty said. “It's a loss to the parts of Philly that Dwight was favoring, but I think the other parts of Philadelphia may pick up some funding."
Dougherty said he send two gift baskets to each member of the new Democratic leadership, packed with Tastykakes and Philly Soft Pretzels, among other goodies. The message, he said: "Don't forget about Philly."
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