On Election Day, scenes from old, new, forgotten Philly

NEWELL04-a
Rich Conway, Vinny Tabita, and Anthony Barbera work the voting station in support of Kevin Dougherty at Herron Playground on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015.

On Two Street Tuesday, they had a name for this election: the South Philly lottery.

As in, South Philly's number was about to come in.

Jimmy in the mayor's office.

Kevin looking good for a seat on the state Supreme Court.

And Kevin's older brother, Johnny Doc, the powerful union leader, the kingmaker, making it all happen.

"People are ecstatic," said Richie Conway, a committeeman working the polling place at the Herron Playground on Second and Reed. Like everyone else working there, Conway knew Kenney from - where else? - the neighborhood.

"He was always a good kid," Conway said. "He does for his friends. He does for his family. Hopefully, now he'll do good for the city."

Conway pointed across the street to a row of shiny new condos - owned, he said, by some of the neighborhood's many newcomers: young people choosing to live and stay in Philadelphia. Young people stretching farther and farther into the neighborhoods. Young people whose support this election season helped propel the councilman from Two Street to the mayor of our city.

"We look out for them and they love it here - they want to be here," Conway said of the neighborhood newbies. "They found their green acre."

And all across Philadelphia Tuesday, if you stopped to look, were small moments from a city in transformation on Election Day.

The Old Philadelphia where Johnny Doc held court in a crowded neighborhood banquet hall serving as the headquarters for his massive get-out-the-vote operation.

The New Philadelphia where young progressives came out to vote in East Passyunk churches.

The Forgotten Philadelphia where voter after voter in a Southwest Philadelphia housing project asked a simple but telling question: "Who's running?"

And all these scenes served as a reminder of what Kenney now faces, as he evolves from Jimmy from the neighborhood to the man who must move all these Philadelphias forward.

It's up to Jimmy from Cantrell Street to balance the transformation among these different Philadelphias. To balance the progress. To make sure that the focus is not only on new condos and beer gardens - and an ever-shinier and inviting Center City - but on lifting up those left behind. That all of us move forward, and not just some. That the transformation is real.

A short walk away, inside the EOM Athletic Association hall, the kingmaker himself stood among his army of union volunteers.

"A great day for Philadelphia," John Dougherty said in his Cagneyesque rat-a-tat.

With a wave, the powerful labor leader dismissed suggestions that the day represented a coronation of sorts for him - that the strings were now his to pull.

He pointed out his Election Day attire: a beat-up sweatshirt, well-worn shorts, a Phillies cap.

"You don't see me sitting in any fancy restaurants," he said. "I ain't got no suits on, no gel in my hair. I got nothing, OK. What I got is eight thousand kids out there working today, and another three or four thousand friends and family working too. I enjoy this. I love it."

He laughed and turned his attention back to reports coming in from the polls.

Meanwhile, outside the polling station in St. Maron's Church hall at 10th and Ellsworth, Paul Richards, a 27-year-old higher education fund-raiser, explained what's drawn him - and so many other younger voters - to Kenney.

Richards' husband enjoyed a political science class he took at Penn taught by Kenney. They enjoyed how he spoke his mind on Twitter. And when they bumped into him at the Race Street Cafe, near where he lives in Old City, he sat and talked. He was authentic.

And hasn't that been such a part of Kenney's appeal? It's like if you walked into the corner bar and the guy next to you in the Eagles jacket - the guy who could pass for a dockworker - turned and said, "Hey, isn't it cool the Supreme Court passed gay marriage?"

"For me, I feel like he represents the Philadelphia I enjoy and participate in," said Richards, a Penn graduate originally from Western Pennsylvania who now lives in Queen Village.

But it was at the Bartram polling station where the biggest challenge facing Kenney - facing our city - was clear. The people there said they felt as if this election had nothing to do with them. They felt left out of the conversation. That none of the candidates had ever come around. That most people didn't even know it was Election Day until Tuesday or the day before.

At Bartram, poll worker Kevin Smith, 21, said voters there kept asking that same question: Who's running?

mnewall@phillynews.com215-854-2759@MikeNewall