Clout: Kenney a dark-horse entry for Council prez?

Posted: October 14, 2011

THE TWO Democrats seeking to be the next City Council president, Marian Tasco and Darrell Clarke, need nine votes to win.

They may not get there.

That could clear the way for a third candidate when the 17 Council members, including at least six rookies, vote in January.

We hear that Councilman Jim Kenney is looking to be that guy.

And in a town where political timing is everything, that move comes as Kenney puts an end to a long, bitter feud with Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and its chief, John Dougherty.

Dougherty tells us he is still backing Clarke for president.

He says it as he heaps praise on Kenney and Kenney's work helping candidates expected to be Council rookies next year, like Local 98 political director Bob Henon.

"I can see that the 30 years of savvy experience is coming out right now," Dougherty said of Kenney. "Jimmy Kenney is working hard to build consensus."

Political factions are always shifting in the city. So this all fits together for several reasons.

Kenney and Dougherty came up in local politics under former state Sen. Vince Fumo, now in federal prison on corruption charges. Dougherty broke with Fumo a decade ago, setting off the feud. Kenney stopped seeing eye-to-eye with Fumo during the federal investigation and trial.

Dougherty opposed Mayor Nutter's election four years ago and has tangled periodically with him since then. Kenney, once Nutter's closest ally in Council, finds the mayor's approach to politics and legislation frustrating.

Nutter is pushing for Tasco to be president. As Council's majority leader, she ran the show with Council President Anna Verna - who is retiring at the end of this year - in ways that ticked off Kenney, including what he saw as her giving too much sway to Minority Leader Brian O'Neill. Kenney and Councilman Frank DiCicco last month prevailed with legislation to redraw Council district lines, rebuffing a plan Tasco helped draw up that was more favorable to O'Neill.

And Kenney had been considering a run for mayor in four years. He surely would pass on that race if he held the Council presidency. That would reduce the number of opponents for another friend of Local 98, Councilman Bill Green, who is expected to run for mayor then.

DiCicco, Kenney's best friend in Council, is retiring this year. He sees the presidency as a possibility for Kenney now that peace has been made with Dougherty.

Green, who has clashed often with Kenney, is not so sure.

"I've never heard that scenario," Green said when asked about Kenney as a potential president. "I consider it highly unlikely, bordering on ridiculous."

Vets for/against Oh

Republicans have wondered for weeks whether David Oh can win a City Council at-large seat after admitting to misleading voters about his military record.

A recent poll by a Republican rival holds what looks like good news for Oh's chances.

Al Taubenberger, the GOP nominee for mayor in 2007, used the poll to test the standing of Oh and other candidates with Democratic and Republican voters.

The poll showed that the five GOP at-large candidates are little-known. Oh had the strongest name recognition, with 65 percent saying they had no opinion of him or had never heard of him.

The poll asked how voters would feel if they knew that Oh had "lied about his own military record, claiming he was a Special Forces Green Beret." Seventy-five percent of the voters said they would strongly consider voting against him or definitely would not vote for him; 12 percent said they might vote against him.

Oh was assigned to a Special Forces unit for training when it was called up to active duty during Operation Desert Storm. He failed to complete the training and was not deployed overseas.

Oh described himself as a Green Beret in campaign materials in 2003, 2007 and this year.

After testing negative messages on Oh and other candidates, the poll again asked how voters felt about them.

Oh fared well: 34 percent had a very positive or somewhat positive outlook for him, 26 percent still had no opinion and 27 percent had a somewhat negative or very negative opinion of him.

Oh ran newspaper ads this week touting his endorsement by the United Veterans Council of Philadelphia. Gary Seifert, who heads that organization, said that Oh's military claims have been "ambiguous at best" but that his group accepted that it was a misunderstanding that Oh says has been overblown.

That endorsement prompted the formation of a new group, the Philadelphia Independent Veterans Association, which will hold a protest about Oh at noon Monday outside the Municipal Services Building. That group says Oh "dishonored himself by willfully and repeatedly fabricating the true nature of his military service for his own political gain."

Homicide stats questioned

Karen Brown, the Republican nominee for mayor, has been dogging Nutter about the city's homicide rate. On Monday, Brown questioned Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey's statistics.

Brown, in an interview on WHYY's Radio Times, claimed that Ramsey is telling his officers to use the "special investigation" classification for deaths that should be reported as murders.

Cases are marked special when the manner and cause of death are not immediately clear.

"I'm saying that I was a math teacher and you can get the numbers to mean anything you want them to," Brown insisted when asked if she was accusing Ramsey of manipulating the stats. "I'm saying I don't believe the numbers are totally correct."

Ramsey said cases are listed as special until the medical examiner determines whether they should be classified as homicides.

"She doesn't know what she's talking about," Ramsey said. "It's just not true."

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