Journalist Michael Kinsley famously defined gaffe as when a politician accidentally tells an obvious truth, especially one that is politically incorrect.
George Badey had one last week. He’s one of a herd of Democratic candidates vying for the newly drawn Fifth Congressional District seat, mostly in Delaware County. He was spotlighted by our “Philly Clout” columnist Holly Otterbein after he was handed a loaded question at a candidates forum and shot himself in the foot.
Moderator Lisa Goldstein asked the two male candidates why voters should consider them in what she said some people are calling the “year of women candidates.”
Intended or not, this was a trap. Who declared it the “year of women candidates”? Does that mean men are automatically disqualified in Progressiveville?
The other guy ducked, but Badey gave what seemed — to this political observer — a realpolitik answer dealing with geographical and political math. It blew up in his face, at least on the internet.
When I called him, Badey didn’t complain about the column, but bitched a little about the Philly.com headline — Democratic congressional candidate: ‘I don’t think a woman can win’ in Delco race — when he actually said he didn’t think a woman could win the primary in Delco, which is different, but the harm had been done.
Badey is being punished for a logical, honest answer that didn’t “sound” good, and any attempt to defend himself will be written off by his self-righteous critics as “mansplaining.”
I know Badey. He is progressive, “evolved,” “woke” and all the other tags the Left loves to stick on itself. I’m a moderate, but Badey thinks I’m William F. Buckley, who was a conservative journalist. Despite our differences, or because of them, we have lively conversations in which we fruitlessly try to convert each other.
Badey, a lawyer, chairs the Radnor Township Democratic Committee, and he ran against U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan for the Seventh Congressional District seat in 2012.
In this year of political upheaval, the open Fifth District seat is drawing Democratic candidates out of the woodwork — a whopping 14, which guarantees a splintered primary vote because there is no strong horse.
When the Pennsylvania Supreme Court redrew the congressional map, Philadelphia and Montgomery, Bucks, and Chester Counties got their own districts, pretty much. The court made the Fifth District 80 percent Delaware County, but threw in a slice of Montco and a chunk of South and Southwest Philly. That created battle lines between city and suburban Democrats.
The sole candidate from Philadelphia who lives in the district is Richard Lazer, a former deputy mayor of labor under Mayor Kenney, who is allied with city Democratic power merchant John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty. That gives Lazer money and muscle in a race Democrats are expected to win.
Badey believes the Fifth should be represented by someone from Delco. Unlike his competitors, he can draw votes from South Philly, he believes, because that’s where he was born, where he started his political career, and where he is known as a spokesman for the Mummers. Without South Philly votes being siphoned off, he says, Lazer will win.
So what he should have said, Badey told me, is that no male candidate could win the primary either, not without South Philly.
I know Badey checks the box on every women’s issue you can think of, but he spouted political reality that sounded bad and he wound up on the Salem dunking stool.
Mary Ellen Balchunis is a longtime political operative who used to teach political science at La Salle University. Badey chaired her congressional campaigns in 2014 and 2016. “I have seen him support women over the years, all the way from township school boards” to Congress, she says.
“I do agree with the political math,” she told me, saying the astounding number of Delco candidates creates a clear path for Lazer to win the nomination. Which is exactly what Badey said, but without the gender reference.
The Delco Democratic Party is having an open forum Wednesday night at Upper Darby High School to hear all the candidates (bring No-Doz), then is expected to endorse a candidate on Sunday.
Might the Dems choose a male candidate in the faux “year of women candidates”? Given the rhubarb surrounding Badey, I doubt it.
But if they do go that way, and if you’re inclined to vote by gender, you can mark your ballot for former state prosecutor Pearl Kim, the endorsed Republican candidate.