Meet George Badey III: The Mummer Running for U.S. House
When budget cuts threatened the 2009 and 2010 Mummers Parade, a group of longtime Mummers got together to find a way to put it all back together. The group called themselves Save the Mummers and set out with the idea to do just that.
The problem: Their parade cost the city about $1 million (which includes both $750,000 for police and services and $360,000 in prize money), which it no longer had. And finding money was proving a little difficult to rationalize, as it had been threatening to close libraries, pools and shut down city services.
Five Mummers divisions asked Delaware County lawyer George J. Badey III to serve as the Chairman of the Board—and he did, pro bono.
Badey had something personally invested in the parade: His own participation. Having grown up in South Philly in the 1960s and 70s, he joined a string band at age 13 and has been a Mummer ever since. Now, the lawyer and Mummer is running for the U.S. House of Representatives in Pennsylvania’s 7th District.
One of Badey’s first actions as Chair was to ease tensions about the cuts. So, he put out a statement in September 2009 saying the parade would go on for another 100 years so long as people “come together to take those bold steps, and to create the partnerships, teams and vision that will have us marching proudly on January 1, 2010, and every New Year’s Day into the future.” He also said that the Bacon Brothers would be recording their song “New Year’s Day” alongside some Mummers. (They performed a benefit concert for the parade in 2009.)
Save the Mummers put together an additional donation drive and merchandise to help bankroll the parade. Most helpful, though, was the eventual funding of SugarHouse Casino, which bankrolled the 2012 parade.
The 7th District Badey hopes to represent isn’t exactly South Philly: It’s a Center-Right seat occupied by Republican Pat Meehan, who won it in an open election when former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak vacated to run for Senate. What makes Badey different from the current and last representative (besides the painting of his face and saxophone playing) is that many of the issues he’s running on are pretty progressive. [Note: This sentence was re-worded to better emphasize Mr. Badey's politics.]
Already, he’s called the Supreme Court decision defending The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act “a win for the people” and says he’ll work to create “a fairer tax system” in office. He wants to close the Halliburton loophole (which exempts fracking from some EPA regulations) and invest in clean energy; supports Planned Parenthood; and says he’ll fight Republicans in Congress who are “attacking Medicare.”
Those progressive values, he says, began at South Philadelphia High School and in a Mummers String Band, the latter of which he emphasizes is largely about charity work.
“Growing up in South Philly in the 1960s [and] 70s, joining a Mummers club was pretty common,” he says. “I started playing clarinet when I was 8 years old as part of the Philadelphia school system’s free music lessons then switched to sax at age 12. One of my friends was in a string band, so I joined. That was in 1971, when I was in ninth grade. Now, 41 years later, I still play sax in a string band.” (The Fralinger String Band has actually gone all the way to Hong Kong to perform. Calling themselves the Goodwill Ambassadors of Philadelphia, they’ve performed locally at local blood and bone marrow drives, as well, he says.)
Badey’s father was a longshoreman in Philadelphia who he says “would get laid off from time to time,” and jump on part-time jobs to support their lifestyle. While such upbringing has often been cited as a rugged individualism mandate, Badey says it had the opposite effect on him. “I worked very hard, but have been fortunate, too,” he says. “When I earned my law degree and passed the bar exam, I decided that my life’s work would be helping people from where I came from: working people. I’ve been doing this kind of work, representing working people, ever since.”
Badey’s the Chair of the Radnor Democratic Committee, in Radnor, Pa., and actually dedicated some of his legal expertise to the litigation in Florida after the presidential election controversy there. He and the Democratic party, of course, were unsuccessful there.
Badey’s opponent in the race, Meehan, was part of the Republican tidal wave that swept through Congress in 2010. Since then, Meehan’s been a consistent vote and voice against President Obama’s agenda, vowing to help repeal the PPACA if given the chance. Meehan has openly stated the health-care law will “lead to the largest tax increase in American history.” Additionally, Meehan wrote on his website the law “cuts Medicare, jeopardizes coverage people already have and places burdens on job creators.”
Asked why he supports the controversial law, Badey believes, well, it’s not.
“Politics aside, just look at the actual facts. The law should not be controversial,” he says. “When I ask people about the actual provisions of the Affordable Care Act … everyone likes them. Now you can’t be dropped from insurance if you get a serious illness. Insurance companies can no longer refuse coverage to the over 200,000 people in our district who have pre-existing conditions … My opponent says he wants to repeal these good things and claims that the ACA is a tax on the middle class and will hurt small businesses. He’s wrong on both counts. The middle class are the exact people the ACA is protecting. In our district alone, over 100,000 middle class working families will receive tax credits to buy insurance and over 15,000 small businesses will be eligible for a tax credit for insuring their employees. How do we pay for all this? Everybody has to participate and pay their fair share.”