Phila. Democrats fight over ward job

Jimmie Moore, a retired Philadelphia Municipal Court judge, was the only candidate to knock off an incumbent Democratic ward leader during the party's quadrennial reorganization this month.

That's no easy task: The process of picking the 69 neighborhood political leaders can be contentious, and incumbents are notoriously difficult to unseat.

Then, days after a chaotic meeting in North Philadelphia's 32d Ward, the incumbent, Gary Williams, challenged Moore's victory before the Democratic City Committee.

The party eventually ruled against Moore, who in 2012 had challenged party Chairman Robert Brady for his seat in Congress, and reinstated Williams.

Now, Moore is suing the party in federal court, trying to get back a post he says he won fair and square.

The sides met for a hearing Thursday before U.S. District Judge Michael M. Baylson, who asked them to submit motions.

Baylson, who presided over the City Hall corruption trial that sent former Treasurer Corey Kemp to prison, could rule by the end of summer.

Moore said after the hearing that "we're going to keep on going" and that he was "absolutely" confident of victory.

"There were some fundamental irregularities in the process that violated my client's . . . rights," said his attorney, Lawrence M. Otter.

After a first round of voting at a ward meeting June 10, Williams and Moore were tied at 20 votes apiece. (Two other candidates split five votes.)

Moore said he had five proxy votes he was not allowed to cast. He also charged one of the ward officials with tampering with a vote, "to throw the election to Gary Williams."

That vote was disallowed, according to the lawsuit.

After a second round of voting, Moore won by 22-20, and a notarized form was sent to the party naming him the new ward leader.

Moore also said that he was never shown Williams' petition to contest the process and that he wasn't allowed to hear testimony or to cross-examine witnesses before the contest committee.

Lou Agre, an attorney for the Democratic Party and himself a ward leader in Roxborough, said there should have never been a second vote.

"Ties have always gone to the contest committee" to be resolved, he said. He also noted that several people left between the two rounds of voting.

Agre called Moore's lawsuit "spurious" and said the federal court had no jurisdiction over an intra-party spat.

He said he planned to file a motion to dismiss the suit.