Dems' picks for Northeast Philly seats may signal bruising battles ahead

The selection Thursday night of two candidates for special elections in Northeast Philadelphia signals what may be the start of a short and bruising campaign season there.

Democratic ward leaders, including Lt. Gov. Mike Stack III, selected State Rep. John Sabatina Jr. to run to replace Stack in the state Senate. Stack was sworn in as lieutenant governor on Tuesday.

That election is expected to be held during the May 19 primary election.

Sabatina, son of longtime 56th Ward Democratic leader John Sabatina Sr., announced his selection in a statement that promised a "vigorous campaign."

John McNesby, president of Lodge 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police, who had talked of running for Stack's seat, has said he may run as a Republican if Democrats do not choose him.

Before the Nov. 4 election, Stack floated the idea of finishing the remaining two years of his fourth term in the Senate while also serving as lieutenant governor. He later abandoned the notion.

The Northeast ward leaders also selected Sarah Del Ricci, founder of the Parkwood Therapeutic Riding Center, for a March 24 special election to fill the state House seat vacated by U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle (D., Pa.).

Stack had been pushing Del Ricci's husband, John, a longtime friend and political ally. Boyle and his brother, State Rep. Kevin Boyle, wanted longtime aide Seth Kaplan as the Democratic nominee.

Kaplan said after the selection that he is quitting Friday as Kevin Boyle's chief of staff to run for the seat as an independent.

Stack, in a statement, said Del Ricci's selection signaled "our commitment to diversity and desire to field a strong candidate . . . against a well-funded Republican." The GOP is backing Martina White, a financial adviser, for the seat.

State House Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) opted to hold the special election for Boyle's seat 56 days before the primary. That raised suspicions that Republicans wanted to avoid the likely stronger turnout of Democratic primary voters.

Democrats have a 7-1 voter registration advantage over Republicans citywide, but that narrows to 2-1 in the 170th District.

 


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