Philadelphia's Republican Party still has two heads

Posted: July 01, 2012

A couple of weeks ago, we speculated that the Republican State Committee, meeting in Hershey last weekend, might do something about Philadelphia's two-headed GOP organization. Never mind.

The two-day meeting concluded with barely a reference to the intraparty warfare that has two people claiming to be chairman of the Philadelphia Republican Party - attorney Vito Canuso Jr., who won a disputed 2010 election subsequently voided by the state party for various irregularities, and financial consultant Rick Hellberg, selected in May by a dissident group of 20 ward leaders at a meeting boycotted by supporters of Canuso and the party's general counsel, Mike Meehan.

Neither Canuso nor Hellberg showed up in Hershey last weekend, but an Allentown attorney and state committee member, Blake C. Marles, submitted a request that the state organization look into the dispute.

"I don't have a dog in this fight," Marles said in a telephone interview. "It just seems to be an issue that should be resolved, for the benefit of the state party as well as the local party."

The unofficial word among GOP faithful is that state chairman Rob Gleason doesn't want to alienate either Philadelphia faction until after the November election. Gleason's spokeswoman, Valerie Caras, did not return calls on the subject. "This is an ongoing matter that we are currently looking into and will resolve in due time," Caras said by e-mail.

Meanwhile, the state party's website includes a page of links to county organizations throughout Pennsylvania. On Philadelphia's page, there is no reference to a county chairman or any of the GOP's four elected city officials, but two Republicans are mistakenly identified as City Council members: Joe Duda and Frank Rizzo. (Both were defeated in their reelection bids last year, and Duda, a longtime city commissioner, wasn't even running for Council.) - Bob Warner

Council gets a heavy hitter

It was hard not to notice the enormous gavel sitting next to Council President Darrell L. Clarke's seat in the caucus room Thursday, before his first budget as president was passed.

The thing looked more appropriate for hammering railroad spikes than calling a meeting to order. It also seemed a bit out of character for the normally low-key Clarke.

Turns out the replacement gavel was a gag organized by Clarke's staff, in conjunction with Councilman Dennis O'Brien.

The gavel originated as a gift to John J. Scott Jr. when he was appointed to the Municipal Court bench in 1980. Scott, who died in 2000, was the stepfather of former O'Brien staffer David Kralle.

O'Brien later congratulated Clarke on shepherding the members through a difficult budget season and reminded him to "be inclusive but carry a big gavel."

"I'm not going to use this because I don't want to break the table," Clarke said, before wielding the thing over his head. "It makes me feel like Thor." - Troy Graham

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