PhillyNow Primer: May 21, 2013 Primary Elections
If you’re reading this the same day it’s published (Tuesday, May 21, 2013), then you’re in luck. Because today is Election Day in Philadelphia and you get a chance to vote for the future of your city—in an off off-year no less! Republicans and Democrats are holding primaries. And in some cases, they’re important.
The most talked-about race this spring is that for City Controller. The Controller conducts audits of city offices and agencies. The current controller, Alan Butkovitz, is running for his third term and is facing a tough primary opponent in Brett Mandel, who last ran for the office in 2009. Other than that, there are judges up for election and the scandal-plagued Philadelphia Traffic Court is potentially getting some new blood, assuming it survives the state Legislature.
It’s generally accepted that only frequent voters are coming out to vote today. Political analyst and pollster G. Terry Madonna tweeted yesterday that today’s primary, statewide, will be “anemic,” saying if numbers reach “20% of reg voters, some might declare victory.”
No candidates are endorsed here and this is not, for the love of God, a one-stop shop. The following short descriptions, generalities, snarky one-liners and names in bold are meant to lead you elsewhere, should you feel the calling to get up today and cast a vote or seven. I’ve provided links to spots where you can get more information, but if you’re really interested in learning about individual candidates (like, say, in the traffic court races, where there are almost 30 candidates), then there may be some Googling in your future. And if you see shit happening at the voting place that shouldn’t be, call 866-OUR-VOTE and report it.
And FYI: you don’t need a voter ID.
The Controller’s office has $7,608,738.82 and 112 employees to audit city agencies. It also has to approve of the factors that go into approving agencies.
Last time the two top-tier candidates, Mandel and Butkovitz, went up against each other, in 2009, Butkovitz won (obviously) earning 36,610 votes; compared to Mandel, who got 24,329; and John Braxton with 26,653.
As it happens, Butkovitz has earned himself some enemies. Reporters get anonymous (and non-anonymous) emails pretty regularly about what a terrible guy he is from some people sometimes. And Brett Mandel released a commercial that blamed Butkovitz for the school budget crisis, which of course he did, because politics.
If you’re looking at endorsements, Butkovitz has gotten what former Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs might call the “professional left”—most prominent politicians in the area, unions, the Democratic City Committee. Mandel got the Inquirer, state Sens. Farnese and Kitchen, the Liberty City Democratic Club and a few more looking for fresh blood in the city controller’s office.
Then there’s Mark Zecca. He’s the third Democrat running for the office. This former Assistant District Attorney of Philadelphia has reportedly done a lot to get his name out there, with minimal success. At a recent debate, he accused Mandel of committing a “third degree felony” due to a meeting he and Butkovitz had in 2012, in which the Democrat rivals reportedly discussed scenarios in which the two would not face each other in the 2013 primary, but it did not work.
And the Republican. There is only one. His name is Terrence Tracy and he’s claiming cronyism, jobs, government efficiency and education as his main priorities. He’ll become truly relevant before the November election, as he’ll face one of the three Democrats (although, most likely either Mandel or Butkovitz) and, perhaps, some independent candidates.
We imagine it’s a little strange running for an office that may not even exist by the time you get put into said office. But that’s what 27 candidates, including 25 Democrats, are doing this year.
The office has been plagued in scandal over the last few years, which includes a federal indictment of nine current and former judges, as well as one judge—these people are judges, mind you!—showing off pictures of his erect penis around the office.
The State Legislature has been working hard to pass a series of bills that would eliminate the court completely. In February, the State Senate voted unanimously to abolish the court and two bills passed through the House Judiciary Committee last week which would do the same. There are bills, too, which would stop any new candidates from taking a seat on traffic court, which would make the entire election you’re potentially voting in today 100 percent pointless!
Nevertheless, we recommend you take some time to familiarize yourselves with the candidates. There are three vacancies. Find the candidates you think might actually do a good job, because assuming s/he does get into office (it takes two sessions and a ballot referendum to amend the state Constitution, which would have to be done here, so this may take a while), we’d rather not hear of even more indictments, resignations, and dik pix.
But are we optimistic? Of course not! It was recently revealed that candidate Warren Bloom, the first candidate on the ballot, once pleaded guilty to a morals charge involving a 14-year-old cousin. So, you know, that!
Here are the candidates’ names. Google them if you’re getting involved today. Or not. Whatever.
District Attorney Seth Williams is up for re-election and is not facing a primary challenger, because, honestly, a primary challenger would not beat Seth Williams in a primary. He will, however, face Republican Daniel Alvarez in November. Alvarez is an associate at Lamb and McErlane, P.C. and notes that he once dropped “an aggravated assault charge after further investigation led me to believe that the man was factually innocent of aggravated assault.” Honesty! Integrity!
Court of Common Pleas
There are ninety judges in the Philadelphia Courts of Common Pleas representing Family Court Division 20, Orphans’ Court Division 3, Trial Division 67. Check here for a list of candidates, a note as to whether or not they’re recommended by the Philadelphia Bar Association and check out their websites, assuming they have one. There are 22 candidates running for six positions.
The Philadelphia Municipal Court System is responsible “for trying criminal offenses carrying maximum sentences of incarceration of five years or less, civil cases where the amount in controversy is $10,000 or less for Small Claims; unlimited dollar amounts in Landlord and Tenant cases; and $15,000 in real estate and school tax cases,” according to the Committee of Seventy. The court conducts preliminary hearings for most adult felonies. There are three vacancies and ten candidates.
Judge of Elections/Inspector of Elections
These are positions that change based on your division in the city—and there are, of course, 1,687 divisions. Judges of Elections conducts their division’s polling place in accordance with federal and state law. Inspectors also work on Election Day, enforcing voting regulations at the polls, prepares the polling place and instructs voters. There’s a majority inspector and minority inspector.