Wide open race in Verna's 2nd

Posted: April 19, 2011

If you're not paying attention to the City Council races, it's about time to start.

With five members retiring and several more seats competitive, the next Council will have the most freshmen members since 1991 when seven newcomers were elected.

The Daily News will break down everything you need to know about the competitive races in coming days.

Second District

The 2nd District covers parts of South Philadelphia, Point Breeze, the Graduate Hospital neighborhood and Center City.

Open/Contested: Council President Anna Verna, who has held the office since 1976, is retiring, leaving this seat open for the first time in more than three decades. The winner of the Democratic primary will face Republican Ivan Cohen in the general election.

Who's running:

_ Barbara Capozzi, a longtime real-estate broker in South Philadelphia, she's worked on numerous civic groups and community causes, including helping to establish the Sports Complex Special Services District.

_ Tracey Gordon, a block captain and community organizer in Southwest Philly, who bumped heads with local Democratic leaders when they refused to seat her as a committeewoman.

_ State Rep. Kenyatta Johnson, serving his second term in a district that covers parts of South and Southwest Philly. Johnson has worked on anti-violence efforts with young people and has a master's from Penn.

_ Damon Roberts, a graduate of Harvard and Howard law school. Real-estate attorney Roberts challenged Verna four years ago and lost.

Debate: 7 p.m., Tuesday April 26, Marian Anderson Recreation Center, 17th Street near Catharine.

Key issues: Public safety, economic development and education are perennial issues for residents in this diverse district.

Who's got the edge: It's likely to come down to Capozzi and Johnson. Johnson is expected to get backing from Mayor Nutter; Capozzi has behind-the-scenes support from Verna. The district's Democratic ward leaders did not make a collective endorsement. Capozzi will have strong name recognition in the north and south ends of the district due to her work on the gentrifying projects in Packer Park and the Naval Square homes. Johnson will run strong in the heart of the district, including Point Breeze, but could see some votes drained by Gordon and Roberts there.

For other installments in this series, see www.philly.com/CouncilRaces.

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