My Take on the Philadelphia Primary Election

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

If you’re like most of us, you’re probably caught up in either the drama of American Idol or the never-ending search for a job, so you may have not noticed that there is a municipal election this year. The contests for District Attorney and City Controller are the headline races this time around, and there are also elections for Common Pleas and Municipal Court judges. There are mere days left before the May 19 primary, but that’s still enough time to bring yourself up to speed on what’s at stake.

If you have been paying attention, you know that there are two outstanding gay and lesbian judges up for re-election who deserve your support. Common Pleas Court Judge Dan Anders and Municipal Court Judge Dawn Segal have both established records for fairness and sensitivity in applying the law and have performed their jobs with integrity. Both of them deserve your vote on May 19.

Of course, the highest-profile race this year is the DA’s race, as incumbent Lynne Abraham is retiring. Five Democrats are vying for the nomination (the one Republican is running unopposed), and each has something to recommend him — no woman is running to succeed Abraham — along with some flaws. The choice in this race is yours entirely. I like Seth Williams myself, but there are also good arguments for his two principal opponents, Dan McCaffrey and Dan McElhatton.

But the most important contest this time around is the race for City Controller. With the city’s budget picture looking particularly bleak still, it becomes all the more important to have an independent watchdog overseeing the city’s books to make sure not a penny goes to waste. Incumbent Alan Butkovitz is not that person. Challenger Brett Mandel is.

Mandel knows the ins and outs of city finances – as a member of Controller Jonathan Saidel’s staff, he did most of the work on the book Philadelphia: A New Urban Direction, the clearest picture yet presented of the city’s fiscal predicament and the choices it needs to make. Then, as the driving force behind Philadelphia Forward, he worked to make some of those choices reality by championing tax reform and honest property assessments.

One reason Mayor Nutter’s proposals for spending cuts met with such opposition is because most of us aren’t convinced that savings couldn’t be found elsewhere. Mandel has pledged to put data on what the city spends online, which will allow us to confirm or dispel our suspicions. He has also pledged to conduct annual audits of city departments, something the City Charter requires of the Controller but which the incumbent has failed to do.

Finally, Mandel is his own man – he has no ties to the ossified and corrupt political Establishment that still enjoys too much influence at City Hall, any influence at all being too much.

Mayor Michael Nutter surfed into office on a wave of reform sentiment. More and more of us who put him there are beginning to wonder whether the “new day, new way” he promised will actually dawn. Perhaps if we give him a true reformer to help him as chief bookkeeper, we might actually see it sometime. If you do nothing else on May 9 besides vote for Judges Anders and Segal, please be sure to vote for Brett Mandell for controller.

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