Council incumbents breeze except Kelly, in race with Oh

The only race expected to provide excitement in Philadelphia's general election did more than that yesterday as, with most of the votes counted, the battle between Republican City Councilman Jack Kelly and challenger David Oh remained undecided.

With nearly 97 percent of precincts reporting, Oh, seeking to become Council's first Asian American member, was in a virtual tie with Kelly for an at-large seat. The two exchanged leads throughout the night.

The result is likely to remain in doubt as city commissioners gather totals from remaining precincts today, and tally provisional ballots and uncounted absentee ballots. Commissioners will meet at 9 a.m. Friday for an official canvassing of the vote, with observers from both candidates welcome.

It was the only race that threatened the status quo, as Democrats or other incumbent Republicans took all Council seats and row offices.

As expected, all 14 Democratic Council candidates - including newcomers Bill Green, Curtis J. Jones Jr., and Maria Quinones Sanchez - were elected yesterday. Incumbent Democrat Donna Reed Miller trounced three opponents in the Eighth District even after two joined forces to defeat her.

Kelly's fellow Republicans on Council, Brian J. O'Neill in the 10th District and at-large member Frank Rizzo, both won. Five Republicans and five Democrats run for a total of seven at-large seats, with Republicans always scrapping for the two spots reserved for the minority party.

Kelly, an ally of Mayor Street's with strong union backing, was viewed as the incumbent most vulnerable to Oh's challenge, as Rizzo's familiar name guaranteed a winning number of votes.

Kelly had projected himself first and foremost in the campaign as an animal lover, drawing on his work to improve the city's shelter and strive for a "no-kill" policy.

Kelly's spokesman, Frank Keel, said: "We understand that this thing is going to come down to the wire. The likelihood is there is going to be a recount and we'll see what happens tomorrow, but we remain optimistic."

Oh, the son of Korean immigrants, sought to challenge the Republican and Democratic establishments as a reform-minded candidate. It was his second bid for Council.

"It looks like we're going to win," Oh said late last night, predicting that the remaining precincts would come in for him. "I'm hoping Philadelphia gets a chance at a fair shake and a better future."

O'Neill, who represents the Northeast Philadelphia-based 10th District, beat Democrat Sean Patrick McAleer by a 3-2 ratio - "the upper limit of my best expectations," O'Neill said last night.

O'Neill's district is only 32 percent Republican, and the councilman said he had feared that the strength of Democrat Michael Nutter at the top of the ticket could hurt him.

"I never worked this hard or worried this much, but I'm thrilled," O'Neill said.

Current council members Carol Ann Campbell, Juan Ramos and Daniel Savage lost in the Democratic primary.

The Council that will greet Michael Nutter as mayor on Jan. 7 will be: Frank DiCicco (First District); Anna Verna (Second); Jannie L. Blackwell (Third); Curtis Jones (Fourth); Darrell L. Clarke (Fifth); Joan W. Krajewski (Sixth); Maria Quinones Sanchez (Seventh); Donna Reed Miller (Eighth); Marian B. Tasco (Ninth); Brian J. O'Neill (10th); and at-large members Blondell Reynolds Brown, W. Wilson Goode Jr., Bill Green, William K. Greenlee, James F. Kenney, Frank Rizzo, and either Kelly or Oh.

Register of Wills Ronald R. Donatucci won, Clerk of Courts Vivian T. Miller held on to her position (also known as Clerk of Quarter Sessions), and Sheriff John D. Green also won.


Contact staff writer Jeff Shields at 215-854-4565 or