Time for our semiannual roundup of election-day shenanigans and skulduggery in this special edition of Clout.
It wouldn’t be a Philadelphia election if candidates didn’t wake up and discover that they had been unceremoniously cut from sample ballots by certain ward leaders.
The city’s Democratic machine is quite the Rube Goldberg contraption. Lots of things can go wrong on Any Given Tuesday. It’s practically tradition.
With the Democratic City Committee issuing no citywide endorsement in the district attorney’s race, the table was set for a good ol’ fashioned cluster.
Then you got the shady PACs.
Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to Strawberry Mansion’s 32nd Ward and elsewhere to confiscate sample ballots printed by Field and Election Day PAC, which isn’t registered with the Pennsylvania Department of State or the city commissioners.
Marni Snyder, an attorney for DA candidate Larry Krasner, confirmed Tuesday night that she had filed that motion and obtained the court order. The illegal sample ballots supported Michael Untermeyer for DA, among other candidates. The 32nd Ward had endorsed Tariq El-Shabazz for DA.
Sheriff’s deputies also confiscated tampered sample ballots in Southwest Philadelphia, as well as ballots printed by illegal PACs in three other wards, according to Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Barbara Grant.
In some African American wards, #blackjudgesmatter sample ballots paid for by “Black Voters Bloc” were being circulated in support of Jack O'Neill for DA. El-Shabazz was the only black candidate in the race. That whole thing smelled fishy to us.
This isn’t exactly unusual. In last year's primary, Clout reported that Fairmount's 15th Ward was distributing “Official Democratic Ballots” endorsing Josh Shapiro for state attorney general, even though the Democratic City Committee had endorsed Western Pennsylvania's Stephen Zappala Jr. for the position.
By midafternoon Tuesday, El-Shabazz was tweeting about a “typo” on some sample ballots and urging his supporters to hit Button 56 to vote for him.
And up in Northeast Philly’s 58th Ward, Democratic committee people were actually using pens to fix sample ballots that contained the wrong button number for endorsed DA candidate “I’m not a Republican!” Untermeyer. The 58th Ward is led by Lt. Gov. Mike Stack.
Does the printing snafu count as a “Stack moment”?
What a mess. We’re glad this is over.
If you're in the noble field of political gossip, there's no better place to stir the pot than in the crowded dining room at Relish in West Oak Lane or over the cramped tables at Famous 4th Street Deli in not-quite South Philly.
Your devoted correspondents asked candidates, elected officials, and retired pols to speculate on the future of some notable figures, starting with District Attorney Seth Williams, who is about a month away from going to trial on federal corruption charges.
Where, we asked, will Seth be a year from now?
"Uh, probably in jail," said Rebecca Rhynhart. Her rival, City Controller Alan Butkovitz, was more specific: "Probably Leavenworth."
State Sen. Larry Farnese – who knows a thing or two about surviving a federal indictment – said he hoped Williams would be "surrounded by his friends and family in a nurturing environment."
Former Mayor John Street argued that Williams' fate isn't necessarily sealed.
"People are just assuming the government has a slam-dunk case against him," Street said. "You could violate every single ethics ordinance in the commonwealth and the city and not have broken the criminal law."
Have it both ways, Jack
Out in Delaware County, Jack Whelan, the Republican district attorney, cross-filed and ran on the Republican and Democratic ballots in a County Court judge race.
It’s a bold move, but not terribly uncommon in judicial races.
Delco Dems, however, were none too pleased to discover lawn signs at polling places that read, “Democrats Vote Jack Whelan for Judge.” The signs seemed to imply that Whelan was a Democratic candidate.
“Truly shameful that when Republicans know voters aren't with them on issues, they resort to disenfranchisement & deception,” tweeted Democratic State Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky. In Swarthmore, someone placed a handwritten sign next to Whelan's that read: “Don’t be fooled! Jack Whelan is a Republican.”
Delco GOP leader Andrew Reilly dismissed the complaints as histrionics. Cross-filing is fair game, and probably worth a shot in a onetime Republican stronghold that’s trending Democratic. If Whelan can win both parties' primaries, he’ll have the judgeship locked up in November.
“It’s near-impossible to win on the other party’s ballot, but Jack had a lot of Democratic supporters,” Reilly said. “It’s more about building up a bipartisan base of support for yourself.”
Meanwhile, John Dougherty’s Local 98 Electricians union was working for Whelan on Tuesday. Interesting. Dougherty is a former Democratic ward leader in Philadelphia and former treasurer of the Democratic City Committee.
“Local 98 is supporting Jack Whelan for judge. John J. Dougherty is a big fan,” union spokesman Frank Keel said in a terse email.
More on that in Friday’s Clout column.
"In politics, money isn't everything. But it's way ahead of whatever comes in second." — Street, at Relish, opining on the neck-and-neck Democratic primary race for district attorney.
Staff writers William Bender, Chris Brennan, David Gambacorta, and Mari A. Schaefer contributed to this column. Tips: firstname.lastname@example.org.