Clout: In Philly, you scratch my back, or I'll scratch you off the ballot

Larry Harris, 58, casts his vote at the 49th ward at 5110 N. 6th Street yesterday.
Larry Harris, 58, casts his vote at the 49th ward at 5110 N. 6th Street yesterday.
Posted: November 04, 2009

IT MAY HAVE been a slow Election Day in Philadelphia yesterday, but there still were a couple of dirty dealings out in the streets.

And Republican controller candidate Al Schmidt learned that in this town, you can't trust anybody.

Not even your own party.

In at least two divisions in the 31st Ward - in the lower Northeast - Republican committee people were handing out sample ballots with Schmidt's name crossed off.

Could this cut have anything to do with Schmidt's tense relationship with the GOP ward leader in the 31st, Philadelphia Parking Authority Director Vincent J. Fenerty Jr.?

In a story in the Daily News last month, Schmidt said that Fenerty had discouraged him from running, and accused the Parking Authority of having a cozy relationship with Democratic Controller Alan Butkovitz.

Fenerty said that he had nothing to do with the ballots.

"I am not cutting Al Schmidt as the ward leader," Fenerty said. "Some individual committee people may not be able to back Al Schmidt. Everyone has their own conscience. Under no circumstance is anyone I know in my ward backing any candidate that is not a Republican."

But Schmidt said that he thought otherwise.

"I am dismayed that a leader in my own party would seek to undermine our efforts to improve Philadelphia," Schmidt said. "It is the only place in the city where this occurred, as far as we know."

Schmidt did get some backup. A judge in city Election Court ruled that the ballots were changed without permission and ordered the sheriff's office to collect them. Schmidt said that he didn't know how many false ballots they picked up.

In case you didn't already know, Al, it's a tough town.

New sheriff in town in 2011?

Given the power of incumbency in Philadelphia, open seats draw pols like moths to a flame, even seats that might be gone. That's the case with sheriff, an office that both PICA and the watchdog Committee of Seventy says should be eliminated.

Incumbent John Green, in office since 1988, is not seeking another term. Even though the election isn't until 2011, state Rep. Jewell Williams, a former cop, is actively exploring a run. So is another ex-cop, Alan Kurtz, who was schmoozing at the Famous Deli on Election Day yesterday.

Kurtz, 66, a retired commander of the Philadelphia Police Department's mounted and canine units, does security consulting and real-estate investing now. He's Philly born and raised, and now lives in Center City.

Rolling up, Mega style

Not even millionaire gubernatorial candidate Tom Knox arrived at the Famous in a limo yesterday, but that's how Will Mega rolled. A white stretch Hummer limo. With a chauffeur. Hat and all.

Mega, a West Philly civic activist, former reality-TV contestant and tireless self-promoter, hopes to unseat longtime state Rep. Louise Williams Bishop in next May's Democratic primary for the 192nd District, centered on Overbrook and Wynnefield.

Williams, a longtime Gospel-radio host, is seeking a 12th term. Mega diplomatically says that he's not running against Bishop but "running for the community."

Mega got his start in politics in 1986 as a youth organizer for now-state Sen. Vincent Hughes, then making his first run for state House. "We passed out campaign literature and the first one finished and down the hill got a Big Mac," Mega recalled.

Field work is a bit more expensive these days.

Speaking of cash and politics...

Knox has been the subject of widespread speculation, since he dumped $11 million of his personal fortune into a 2007 run for mayor in Philadelphia. How much, the question goes, is Knox willing to spend on his run for governor?

That concerns Knox, who feels that media coverage of his run for mayor suggested that he tried to "buy the election." A campaign spokesman has said that Knox could spend as much as $20 million. Knox yesterday promised to spend as much of his cash as needed to be competitive but declined to speculate on the potential amount.

"I've never given anyone a number," Knox added. "If I did, my wife would have my head."

Philadelphia Phuture on Phils

So what did yesterday's match-up for an open seat on the state Supreme Court have to do with the World Series? We're still trying to figure that out. But we hear that some campaign literature passed out during Monday's Phillies win over the Yankees was very popular with local baseball fans.

The palm card shows a giant screw penetrating a Yankees ball cap, with the caption: "Screw the Yankees. Vote Panella."

Philadelphia Phuture, the political action committee of electricians union boss John Dougherty, paid for the cards for Jack Panella, who faced Joan Orie Melvin in yesterday's election.


"You know what's worse than working 13 hours with nobody showing up? Working 14 hours with nobody showing up."

- Kathleen Widman, a Republican committeewoman in the 55th Ward's 29th division, on whether the polls should've been kept open an extra houryesterday because of the SEPTA strike.

Staff writers Dave Davies and Gar Joseph contributed to this report.

Have tips or suggestions? Call Chris Brennan at 215-854-5973 or Catherine Lucey at 215-854-4712. Or e-mail

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Have a news tip? Gossip? Suggestion? Call Chris Brennan at 215-854-5973 or Catherine Lucey at 215-854-4712. Or e-mail

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