Nutter’s humiliation

by pkerkstra on May 18, 2011

The dozen or so Philadelphia voters who turned out  yesterday provided answers to a few questions I raised ahead of Tuesday’s election.

1. Was Michael Nutter embarrassed?
Oh yeah. Milton Street took about 24 percent of the vote, just a shade below the admittedly arbitrary 25 percent marker some people (like myself) had set as the humiliation hurdle. But just as important as the votes Street got were the ones nobody got. Of the 196,000 Philadelphians who voted, Nutter got just 111,000 votes. Republican candidates accounted for only about 16,000 votes, and Street got just 35,000. That means over 30,000 voters couldn’t bring themselves to pull the lever for Nutter or Street, a figure that is surely tempting John Street, Tom Knox and maybe some others mulling over Independent campaigns against Nutter in November.

The election also underscored how big a problem Nutter has with poor and working-class African American voters. In some predominantly black North Philadelphia wards, Street collected 40 percent of the vote.

A caveat. An election like this, with pathetic turnout and no viable opponent to contrast himself with, is not a perfect reflection of how the broader city electorate feels about Nutter. But it says something alright.

2. Whither the GOP?
Frank Rizzo lost. That’s really all you need to know to understand the massive changes now taking place in the city’s Republican Party. In fact, Rizzo was destroyed, placing seventh in the GOP at-large City Council race.

The momentum now seems entirely with the reform wing of the city GOP, which has sought for several years now to oust the old leadership, which is pretty cozy with the Democratic party. Al Schmidt, the unofficial leader of that insurgency, won one of two GOP nominations for City Commissioner. David Oh, who is considered another Republican reformer, was the top vote-getter in the at-large GOP council race. The Republican mayoral primary is still too close for me to call, with less than 100 votes separating party-backed Karen Brown from reformer John Featherman.

3. Did reform voters show?
Not on the Democratic side, not really. Yes, DROP mascot Marge Tartaglione appears to have narrowly lost her re-election bid. But otherwise all Democratic incumbents were re-elected (albeit narrowly in some cases), and the candidates who won nominations in open seats were generally backed by established figures like Nutter and John Dougherty.

4. So who won the Doc-Nutter City Council faceoff?
I’m calling this a split decision. Bobby Henon, Dougherty’s candidate in the sixth district, trounced Nutter-backed Marty Bednarek. But seventh district incumbent Maria Quinones-Sanchez, who Nutter endorsed, beat back Doc-supported Daniel Savage. There is no question that Dougherty will wield more influence in the next council, but a lot of his candidates—like Bill Green and Mark Squilla—were endorsed, at least on paper, by Nutter as well.

5. How diverse is the new council?
Not very. Sanchez’s re-election means council will retain its sole Latino member, but Asian Democratic at-large candidate Andy Toy fell short despite a well-funded, slick campaign. On the GOP side, David Oh’s strong showing suggests he has an excellent chance of becoming City Council’s first Asian representative.

Bonus question I didn’t ask, but should have: How pissed are voters really about DROP?
Very, very pissed. Had they never enrolled in DROP, I bet Rizzo and Tartaglione both would have won re-election.

(This originally appeared on PhillyPost)

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