Back in 2009, trying to practice what I preach, I did the unthinkable, for someone who had been a Democratic committeeman a couple of years earlier.
I did not endorse the Democratic candidates for controller (Alan Butkovitz) and district attorney (Seth Williams).
The principle I was supporting is that one-party rule -- such as Philadelphia has endured for 60 years -- is bad for Philadelphia, is bad for democracy and is even bad for the Democratic Party.
Bad for the party? Don’t they keep getting their own elected?
Yes, they do -- elected, then often indicted and incarcerated. That’s a sorry result when offices are filled by succession rather than competition. Political rigor mortis sets in.
“Power tends to corrupt,” wrote Lord Acton, “and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Do you really need to again see the list of some two dozen Democratic elected officials who sold their office? In the “modern” era, “highlights” include City Councilmen (George X. Schwartz, Jimmy Tayoun, Rick Mariano), state senators (Buddy Cianfrani and Vince Fumo), and congressmen (Ozzie Myers and Chaka Fattah), plus various state reps and judges. To one degree or another they felt somehow entitled or impervious. As I wrote in 2009, and very little has changed, “Under Democratic monopoly, Philly residents have: the second highest city tax rate in the nation, craven Council members cashing in on DROP, an incompetent Board of Revision of Taxes, a 25 percent city poverty rate, a pinball pay-to-play system, a Department of Human Services that kills kids, a school district with a near-50-percent dropout rate. . . .”
Democrats are not to blame for every bad thing that’s happened to Philadelphia, but they’ve been at the helm for 60 years. Whom do we blame -- Capt. Noah?
In the 2009 election, I tried to help break the stranglehold Democrats have on Philadelphia because having two viable parties empowers voters.
As to the DA race, although Williams seemed decent, I had misgivings, which proved prescient. I felt there was no Democratic or Republican way to enforce the law, there was only the right way. I may have been wrong.
I endorsed -- get this -- Republican Michael Untermeyer over Williams. Yes, the same Untermeyer now running for DA -- as a Democrat.
For controller in 2009 I endorsed newcomer Republican Al Schmidt, figuring he’d be tougher on inefficiency, fraud, and corruption. (Schmidt is now an outstanding city commissioner.)
I dismissed Butkovitz because he was a ward leader and I thought that as part of the cabal he’d be unlikely to crack down on crackpot splurging by his fellow Dems.
Time has proven me wrong about Butkovitz.
Rather than the sniveling caterpillar I imagined, Butkovitz has shown real spine in butting heads with his Democratic mayors, both Michael “Expense Account” Nutter and Jim “Big Soda” Kenney. I doubt a Republican could have done better.
This being Philly, the real election is the primary, where Butkovitz has attracted Democratic challenger Rebecca Rhynhart, who has held several posts under guess who -- Nutter and Kenney.
Yes, payback is a bitch.
For the record, the Republican candidate for controller is Michael Tomlinson. Good luck, you’ll need it.
For DA there are a lucky seven Democratic candidates, plus one unopposed Republican.
It may be that Seth “Thankful Beggar” Williams so sullied the DA’s Office none of the Democrats wants to be known as the city’s top law enforcement officer. They sound like social workers tripping over each other with plans to reduce or eliminate bail and downgrade an array of crimes. Sensible reforms are necessary, but the office requires a prosecutor, not a public defender.
They suffer from the disease of many urban Democrats, being unable to see illegal immigration as breaking the law. They endorse Philadelphia as a sanctuary city, which generally turns loose foreign felons rather than deport them.
That’s not my idea of law enforcement, so in November Republican Beth Grossman will get my vote, assuming she’s still able to distinguish between “legal” and “illegal.”
Can a Republican win? Unlikely, but not impossible.
Republican Ron Castille won in 1985, promising to clean up the office and enforce the law. There's a message here.