Friday, June 2, 2017

PA Open DA Primary

Without knowing it, and certainly without it having been planned, Philadelphia, PA, just participated in a great Electoral experiment, where voters in two different types of Elections simultaneously, voted in an Open Democratic Primary and a Closed one.

The Closed Primary

The Democratic City Committee endorses a Candidate from among the Contenders, throwing the full weight of all 66 Ward Leaders behind them. Typically, this immeasurable advantage is conferred upon all Incumbents without regard to the quality of their Public Service,Fitness for Office or Federal Indictment, as was the case with former Congressman Chaka Fattah.

The venerated practice of the Party sliding its greasy thumb onto the scale for Incumbents insulates that Office Holder from the need to be Effective, Engaged, or even Present and Accounted for. In the last 40 years, the Party protected Incumbents so successfully that only a handful of Council people have lost Reelection. Essentially, once you’re in, you’re in.

The Open Primary

Recently, Philadelphians got a special treat in the form of an Open Election for District Attorney. There was no Endorsed Candidate to discourage competition and the field grew to be Full, Diverse and Thoughtful. There was no Institutional counterweight to Philly’s first “Movement Politician” since Cecil B. Moore: Civil Rights Lawyer Larry Krasner. In a seven-way Race, Krasner took an Early, Commanding Lead and Maintained it. There are those who say his “silver Bullet” was George Soros, but candidate Michael Untermeyer Self-Financed in an amount approximately Equal to that and did poorly.

Off year Elections draw Low Turnouts, which are further depressed by the routine Absence of Suspense. This year’s DA’s race generated sufficient excitement and hope that Turnout handsomely exceeded forecasts, providing a tsunami of newly animated Voters to carry Krasner to Victory and help upset the Controller’s Race for endorsed Incumbent Alan Butkovitz.

The Open Primary increased turnout and attracted a wide field, offering a real argument against Party Endorsements and providing hope for those who tire of the unchanging faces that dominate PA Governance.

In the 3rd Council District, the late Lucien Blackwell, Councilman for almost 20 years, was succeeded by his wife Jannie, who’s held it for the last 26. Former Councilwoman Anna Cibotti Verna served on Council for 37 years, succeeding her Dad who held it for two decades. Marian Tasco represented her Council District for 29 years prior to handing the office over to a former Staffer, Blondell Reynolds Brown, who has served on Council for 17 years and is routinely endorsed by the Party despite Record Setting Fines from the Ethics Board. The Routine Endorsement of Incumbents is anti-Competitive and just plain Insulting.

The pressure to continue Endorsing Candidates comes from the practice of Charging Candidates to help Pay Election Day Expenses, for their substantial Political blessing. Judicial Candidates, Sheriff, Register of Wills, Council at-large, all are required to kick in $20-30 thousand. In part, this is how the roughly 4,000 Democratic Committee people are kept fed.

Despite the Party’s Pecuniary Proclivities, the evidence in favor of Open Primaries seems strong and suggests we need not be Captive to the Insiders, cronies, and perpetual Backscratchers who seem to dominate our Civic Business.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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