Electricians' union becoming more political than ever

Posted: April 27, 2012

WITH MORE than $1 million a year in payroll contributions from its members, Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers has been a political powerhouse in city and state campaigns.

And now the union has doubled down on political spending.

John Dougherty, the union’s local leader, says members voted unanimously last week to double the amount they contribute from paychecks to Local 98’s Committee for Political Education (COPE), its main political-action committee.

COPE has been used to fund three other political-action committees in recent years.

Dougherty told us he estimated that the union spends about 15 percent of its time on political matters. He intends to increase that to 25 percent.

But Dougherty dismisses rumors that he is again considering a run for mayor, this time in 2015, when the seat will open because Mayor Nutter is term-limited.

“No, I have no intention of running for mayor,” said Dougherty, who attributed the rumors to a “leadership void” in the city. He said that so far he sees no front-runner to be the next mayor.

Paperwork trips Payton . . . again?

Stop us if you’ve heard this one: State Rep. Tony Payton Jr. may be tripped up on paperwork as he tries to get his name on the ballot for public office.

Payton is talking with political allies about running as an independent in the Nov. 6 general election for the 179th District seat in the lower Northeast he has held for three two-year terms.

He withdrew from the April 24 Democratic-primary election ballot on March 22 during a Commonwealth Court hearing, when his nominating petitions were challenged by James “Scoot” Clay Jr., who is being supported by Payton foe Danny Savage, a ward leader and former city councilman.

Payton insists that he had enough valid signatures to stay on that ballot but that he saw a pattern in the way the judge was ruling that convinced him to drop out and keep his options open for a different approach.

To run as an independent, Payton needed to change his voter registration from Democratic at least 30 days before the primary election. He says he dropped off a change of registration at the City Commission offices on March 26, which was 30 days before the primary.

But the City Commission says the time stamp on Payton’s voter registration change to independent says it happened on April 10, two weeks too late.

“That’s not correct,” Payton said. “I’ll figure that out.”

Little soda-tax talk in Nutter’s HBO appearance

Former Mayor John Street may have set out to be “America’s fittest mayor,” but Mayor Nutter is making his own play for the health-and-fitness crown.

Next week, he is hosting a special screening of a new HBO documentary series about obesity, “The Weight of the Nation.”

According to a version of the show that we got a peek at, Nutter was taped walking around West Philly talking about the city’s efforts to help neighborhoods where it’s easier to buy junk food than fresh food.

But it doesn’t look like Nutter speaks on screen about one health effort for which he received national attention — his two failed efforts to impose a soda tax in Philadelphia. Nutter tried for the tax in 2010 and 2011 but City Council, heavily lobbied by union labor and the soda industry, blocked the effort.

Nutter’s spokesman said that the soda tax had been mentioned in passing in the series but that the focus was on the city’s range of anti-obesity efforts.

The screening is Tuesday night and features a panel discussion by health-care professionals.

PhillyClout hopes there will be popcorn and Junior Mints, which always improve movie time.

Quotable:

“I’m not fine with it but that’s what I’m driving.”

— Sheriff Jewell Williams, who complained in February that the city would not buy him a $38,000 Chevy Tahoe SUV with a souped-up law-enforcement engine, forcing him to use a 2012 Ford Escape SUV driven by his predecessor. Williams, who presented his new budget request to City Council Thursday, said he is not asking for a new ride. n

— Daily News Staff Writer Catherine Lucey contributed to this report.

Contact Chris Brennan at 215-854-5973 or email him at brennac@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisBrennanDN and read his blog, PhillyClout.com.

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