Clout: Is there a push to get a black city controller candidate for 2013?

Posted: October 12, 2012

CLOUT KEEPS hearing about efforts to recruit an African-American candidate for next May's Democratic primary election for city controller.

The race already has two white candidates: Incumbent Alan Butkovitz, who is seeking a third term, and Brett Mandel, a tax- policy advocate who finished third in the 2009 primary.

Could somebody be sizing up a Philadelphia political race, thinking of ways to take advantage of a division of votes along racial lines? It wouldn't be the first time.

Michael Williams, who just left the city Law Department for private practice, is setting up an exploratory committee to look at entering the controller's race.

Williams said local attorney David Maser - a name that kept coming up in recruitment talk - had encouraged him to run.

Williams calls the exploratory committee his own idea that may be in "confluence" with the political tactics of others in the city.

"I'm my own person," Williams said. "This came from me. I happen to be African-American. I happen to be Catholic. I happen to be gay."

Mariska Bogle, daughter of Philadelphia Tribune publisher Robert Bogle, told us she had been approached about running for office. Bogle, who is not running, declined to say if she had been recruited for the controller's race or identify who approached her.

Loree Jones, a former top staffer in the Street administration and now chief of staff for the School Reform Commission, said she also had been approached about running for controller. The job is "not a major interest of mine," Jones said before adding that she had not ruled out the idea of running.

We also heard that attorney Sharif Street, son of former Mayor John Street, had been approached about running for controller. Street declined to comment when asked about the race.

Former Common Pleas Judge John Braxton, an African-American who finished second in the 2009 primary, said he has not been approached to run again and has no interest in it.

Williams and his new boss have interesting pasts with the Controller's Office. Williams was director of the Mayor's Minority Business Enterprise Council from 2004 to 2006 and clashed with Butkovitz's office over an audit of that agency.

Williams started a job two weeks ago heading the forensic auditing group at the law firm Picciotti & Schoenberg. One of the firm's leaders, Dean Picciotti, owns another company, Lexington Technologies Inc.

Butkovitz's office paid that company $60,000 to help on an audit of the Sheriff's Office. Butkovitz last year opposed a $650,000 no-bid contract that the First Judicial District planned to give Lexington Technologies to work with the Sheriff's Office, saying it would be a conflict of interest.

Williams would have been forced to quit his city job to run for controller. That won't be a problem at Picciotti's firm.

Picciotti told us that Williams will be "sorely missed" at the law firm if he runs for controller. He also said that Williams would be the "best thing to happen to good government in Philadelphia since the Continental Congress."

Pa.: The ground game

Need proof that Pennsylvania isn't considered a battleground state in the Nov. 6 presidential election? Turn on your television. You won't see the campaign ads used to sway voters.

Instead, the Keystone State is all about the ground game this year for President Obama and Mitt Romney. The focus for both campaigns is on registering voters and knocking on doors.

The conservative blog Daily Caller sent ripples of concern through Republican circles with a report Tuesday that Romney is moving "substantial resources" from Pennsylvania to Ohio.

A Romney campaign source quickly pushed back, calling the move small and temporary.

Then Romney's deputy campaign manager noted for the Detroit News on Wednesday the "most critical" states for the campaign's resources. Pennsylvania was missing from that list.

Obama's campaign on Thursday claimed to have a stronger ground game than Romney's camp in several states, including Pennsylvania. The Obama campaign stressed growing strength in Pennsylvania among voters who are young, female and/or Latino. Pennsylvania has about 1 million more registered Democrats than Republicans.

In the last three months, Democrats have registered 46,111 voters in Pennsylvania and Republicans registered 26,150, Obama's campaign said.

Romney's camp is touting the GOP ground game, saying that volunteers have had more than "3.5 million voter contacts" and have knocked on more Pennsylvania doors than in 2004 and 2008 combined.

"The momentum is clearly behind Gov. Romney in Pennsylvania," spokeswoman Kate Meriwether told us.

An Inquirer poll released Thursday showed Obama leading Romney in Pennsylvania, 50 percent to 42 percent.

Mansfield on the mend

Retired Army Sgt. Robert Allen Mansfield is back out on the campaign trail for the U.S. House in Philadelphia after a week of doctor-ordered rest.

Mansfield, the GOP nominee challenging U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah and independent Jim Foster, was "exhausted and stressed out" from the campaign, spokesman Mark Landis said.

An Iraq war veteran, Mansfield "sustained concussive stress fractures" when a vehicle in his convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device, Landis said.

"He's back to canvassing on a limited schedule," said Landis, adding that Mansfield will be re-evaluated by doctors in two weeks.

Quotable

" Please let this email chain serve as yet another example of the dysfunction of the Philly GOP. We argue over crumbs and a $36 meal while the city collapses."

- Republican Kevin Kelly, after two warring factions of the Philadelphia GOP engaged in an long email spat - copied to four local reporters - about the bill for a state party breakfast.


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

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