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.

Despite her varied obligations, I steered our conversation mostly to her work with the Katz campaign. I was interested to hear the opinions of a staffer, particularly in preparation of my afternoon interview of Katz.

Kaplan, who has known Katz since they were kids growing up in northwest Philadelphia, had some interesting thoughts comparing the 1999 and 2003 campaigns, accounting for the nearly 70,000 difference in voting split between he and Street.

There were some in town who wouldn’t vote Republican in 2003 because of circumstances beyond our control. The national scene made the Republican tag hurt a lot more. The Iraq war is not a top prize in Philadelphia”

Also, for those of us hoping for viable two party elections in town, Kaplan seemed doubtful.

I don’t believe there’ll be another Republican candidate similar to Sam Katz in Philadelphia anytime soon… A Republican could possibly win in Philadelphia, but if you were going to build a genuine Republican Party, it is a pretty steep, uphill climb.”

Her father, Herman Mattleman, who was born in Philadelphia on Aug. 24, 1925, served a number of causes in Philadelphia, including acting as president of the Philadelphia Board of Education from 1983 to 1991. Her son Alex, a graduate of Dartmouth College, has gotten involved in regional campaigns, too.

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