Clout: Neilson resigning, returning Kenney's (stolen?) couch

New City Councilman Ed Neilson sits at his new desk in Council chambers. ( MICHAEL BRYANT  / Staff Photographer )
New City Councilman Ed Neilson sits at his new desk in Council chambers. ( MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer )

COUNCILMAN Ed Neilson, who lost his re-election bid in last month's Democratic primary, confirmed yesterday what Clout first heard a couple weeks ago: He's leaving City Hall early to run in a state House special election.

Daily News reporter Wendy Ruderman said Neilson's voice was "thick with emotion" during a nearly five-minute speech from his Council seat.

"As Council prepares for summer recess, I won't be heading to the beaches. I hope to be driving back up the turnpike to make certain that our voices are heard here in Philadelphia. So, today it's with a heavy heart that I must say goodbye to City Council. Later today, I will deliver my resignation to you, Council president, because as of 5 p.m. tomorrow, I will be resigning from office," Neilson told Council President Darrell Clarke.

"See you in Harrisburg, president," Neilson said, then winked at Clarke and blinked back tears, his eyeglasses between his fingers.

Neilson, a former state rep who served on Council for less than a year, will run in the state House's 174th District special election in Northeast Philly on Aug. 11. His first two victories were also in special elections, which makes him some sort of special election . . . specialist.

Couchgate, continued

Things got strange, though, when Ruderman inquired about the couch that Neilson (allegedly) stole from Jim Kenney's office after Kenney resigned from Council in January to run for mayor.

"You know, the couch? Who are you going to bequeath it to?" Ruderman asked.

"I returned it to Jimmy's office because I think he may need it in his office. The mayor's office on the second floor is very large," Neilson said, adding, "I only borrowed it, though."

So you borrowed it, then put it back in Kenney's office? "It's in my office still," Neilson said.

Huh?

"His couch that he lent me is still in my office," Neilson said. "I just borrowed it for a couple of months, that's all. I'm just going to put it back in Jimmy's office so nobody else steals it."

Aha! So you did steal it!

When we informed Kenney that he could have the couch back, he replied: "I don't want it back! Tell him to strap it to the top of his car and drive it to Harrisburg. I certainly don't want it after he had it."

Not-quite-mayor-elect

Kenney isn't mayor yet. Even though he won the Democratic primary in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans 7-to-1, Kenney still has to face Republican mayoral candidate Melissa Murray Bailey in November - as angry Realtor and onetime Republican mayoral candidate John Featherman explained this week in a 1,151-word diatribe on his Philly.com blog, U-Turn. But that doesn't mean that Kenney isn't working behind the scenes.

We heard an American Airlines representative reached out to Kenney last week before the airlines agreed to a lease requiring airline subcontractors to pay employees at least $12 an hour. Some of those subcontractors, such as PrimeFlight Aviation Services, had been paying as little as $7.75 an hour, plus tips, ignoring the city's "living wage" standard.

Kenney told us he supports the airlines, but said if their subcontractors continued "abusing Philadelphians financially on the tarmac" that he'd "move to keep [the subcontractors] from doing business on city property."

If elected mayor.

"He said we hear you loud and clear," Kenney said of the American Airlines representative.

Despite what Featherman says, something tells us the airlines didn't do much consulting with Bailey on this matter.

Crowdpac expanding

Silicon Valley troublemaker Crowdpac is expanding its efforts to make races more competitive. The website recruits candidates and enables voters to pledge money to them to gauge early support. They've caused a bit of a ruckus in Chaka Fattah's congressional district, but now they're going statewide.

Within one day this week, Crowdpac received 14 possible challengers to Democrat Joe Sestak, who is seeking his party's nomination to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey next year. We also hear a couple people are interested in challenging U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, who happens to be chairman of the city Democratic Committee. The pages for those races will go live in a week or two.

We're still in wait-and-see mode with this Crowdpac stuff. But we're keeping a bag of Orville Redenbacher within arm's reach.

- Daily News staff writers William Bender and Wendy Ruderman

contributed to this report.