Ed Rendell for Hillary

It came as little surprise when former Philadelphia Mayor and current Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton in her bid for the U.S. Presidency back in January.

But few may have guessed how much time and energy he would devote to her presidency. I can’t help but think how this effects politics in Philadelphia, particularly as Mayor Michael Nutter joins Rendell and Clinton’s competitor Sen. Barack Obama continues to roll up other city government endorsements in Philadelphia.

Whether this further split the city’s Democratic Party that already has lines along reform and machine, or simply assure some foothold for  Philadelphia no matter which Democratic candidate gets the nomination when and if it comes to urban funding and legislation. The Clintons have been friends to Philadelphia before, largely though Rendell, would Obama be the same?

See an interesting interview of Rendell by Bill Maher on his Real Time program, during which Rendell speaks on his support for Clinton.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zYMWowWACvU]

Photo courtesy of CBS News.

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Barack Obama clashes with Philly-style machine politics

In a story missed by Philadelphia media, Sen. Barack Obama is clashing with Philadelphia’s old style politics, as first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

Fourteen months into a campaign that has the feel of a movement, Sen. Barack Obama has collided with the gritty political traditions of Philadelphia, where ward bosses love their candidates, but also expect them to pay up.

The dispute centers on the dispensing of “street money,” a long-standing Philadelphia ritual in which candidates deliver cash to the city’s Democratic operatives in return for getting out the vote.

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Smerconish has a take on those new Democratic Philly suburbs

Michael Smerconish has lots of opinions.

As posted here last week, Montgomery County, a suburban county just northwest of Philadelphia, now has more registered Democrats than Republicans for the first time since the 1970s.

He has an opinion about that.

Smerconish took issue with the argument that the suburbs going bluer has to do with Democratic Philadelphians moving and “taking their registrations with them.”

That was a partial explanation for some shifting patterns from the end of World War II until the 1970s, but not now.”

Instead, it has to with national politics, Smerconish wrote.

It’s not that the party isn’t conservative enough to win the suburbs; it is that the party is too conservative and has lost touch with a suburban constituency.

Fault for that lies in the party’s national image. Impressions of political parties are established nationally. People don’t usually join a political organization based on their sense of the county commissioners, the competence of the row officers, or the performance of the borough council. They choose the party whose platform, they believe, most closely resembles their general views. And those platforms flow from the federal level. They are personified by national players.

Of course, this is another vote in a debate that will have to find its place in my paper, which is growing, but needs to be finished in the next two to three weeks: how large a role do national politics play in local elections?

Photo from America’s Voice in Israel.

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Temple University Research Forum

This afternoon from 2:40 p.m. to 4 p.m. I served on a panel (that sure looked like what is depicted above, though I was on it) at the Temple University Research Forum, during which I presented some of my findings from this research project on the Republican Party in Philadelphia.

The panel was entitled “The Politics of Diversity” and I presented under the title of “The Republican Politics of Party and Race in Philadelphia.” (See conference PDF here.)

My abstract was as follows:

Presentation Abstract: Philadelphia hasn’t had a Republican mayor since Bernard Samuel left office in 1952, a Democratic record that has few equals in urban politics. Can a Republican be elected mayor of Philadelphia? Through more than 20 interviews with the city’s journalists, academics and politicians, book research and my own discovery, this paper will investigate the failings of Philadelphia’s GOP.

We were given just ten minutes, so I had to drastically reduce what of my findings I presented. Still, I thought it went well. I will post my Power Point slides and even, it seems, get to present video of my presenting in the coming week.

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Montgomery County goes Democratic

This thesis is about the Republican Party in Philadelphia, but the entire region can teach lessons.

For the first time since 1978, Bucks County, north of the city, has more registered Democrats than Republicans, as reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer today. Montgomery County, too, is a Philadelphia suburb that has seen a rise in Democrats on their rolls despite a sold Republican presence since at least the Ronald Reagan administration in the 1980s.

With Pennsylvania embroiled in a heated Democratic presidential primary, pitting Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., the party is attracting new voters and finding Independents and even Republicans going Donkey, if only for the chance to weigh in on what may be a decisive primary.

The Democratic edge is small, just 3,000 and a fraction of a point, but the important lesson is how one competitive election can bring about wild rises and falls in voter interests, persuasions and registrations.

Still, Chester and Delaware Counties, other surrounding Philadelphia suburbs, remain largely Republican.

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Nonpartisan elections: the take by Sam Katz, John Street, and others

Last week I got the opportunity to sit down with former Republican contender for mayor, Sam Katz.

We spoke on a number of subjects, more notably his view of nonpartisan elections in Philadelphia. He told me that he hadn’t given it much thought, not thinking it was worth pursuing.

Today, he followed up on our conversation with more thoughts on the subject.

As a practical matter, election law is controlled by the state—i.e. the legislature. Those laws are made by incumbents. The state has very few legislative and senate districts that are generally considered to be “in play”. So getting members of the House and Senate to vote for a system that would put their renomination at greater risk by enabling people outside of the party that nominated them to have a voice, isn’t something we’re likely to see anytime soon. Pursuing it as a political agenda item, would, in my view, be a waste of time and energy.

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Interview: Sam Katz, a three-time Republican mayoral candidate

This afternoon I was privileged enough to speak with Sam Katz, one of the most successful Republican politicians in Philadelphia in the last half century. Nothing speaks more to the party’s struggles here than the truth of that statement and the realization that Katz has never won a major public office.

It also is important to say that Katz spent much of his life as a registered Democrat and registered as an Independent in May 2007, to retain the possibility of running outside the two-party structure. In the end, he found Michael Nutter a palatable enough candidate to not run at all.

Still, in 1991, 1999 and 2003, he was considered a respectable Republican contender in a city that rarely considers the non-Democrat at all, set aside considering them somewhat palatable. But, Katz grabbed a handful of meaningful endorsements, including former Democratic mayoral candidates Happy Fernandez and John White Jr. in 1999 and former Street confidant Carl Singley in 2003.

There were two topics I wanted most to address with Katz, his general thoughts on the reality of a two-party system in Philadelphia and if nonpartisan elections could add a more competitive element to city-wide elections.

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Bob Barnett: former Sam Katz campaign director

During today’s interview with Ellen Kaplan, former issues director of Sam Katz’s 1999 Republican bid for mayor of Philadelphia and current staffer at the Committee of Seventy, she mentioned the success of Katz’s 1999 campaign director Robert S. Barnett.

I had heard the name, even having mentioned Barnett once before here, back in September when noting his take on the effect of President Bill Clinton on the 1999 mayoral battle between Katz and John Street.

Bob Barnett was one element of a bipartisan, but Democratic-leaning crew leading Katz’s 1999 campaign, which included veteran consultant Neil Oxman, policy director Linda Morrison, and issues director Ellen Kaplan, all Democrats, and Republican consultant Christopher Mottola, as reported by CityPaper.

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It's always sunny in Philadelphia

Always Sunny in Philadelphia

A distraction brought to you from “It’s always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMULd3xdZS0&feature=related]

Holler at City Hall in the background.

Photo courtesy of ATNZone, a blog about TV.

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Interview: Ellen Kaplan, Committee of Seventy policy director

Ellen Mattleman Kaplan was a worthy interview for a number of reasons.

Ellen Kaplan

Since April 2005 she has been the vice president and policy director of the Committee of Seventy, the country’s premiere urban political oversight group since 1904. In 1999, she was the issues director for Republican Sam Katz’s mayoral campaign, despite being a Democrat herself. (I am interviewing Sam Katz this afternoon).

For most of the 1990s she was the associate director for Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, a Pennsylvania nonpartisan, nonprofit group working to improve the commonwealth’s judicial system. After her work with Katz, she worked as the managing director of public policy and communications and then acting CEO of Greater Philadelphia First, a business and civic leadership group.

Oh, and she is a lifelong Philly girl.

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