A coffee can and bingo balls determine ballot positions in Philly elections

Posted: March 22, 2013

THE BEST BET, it seemed Wednesday, for candidates running for three open seats on Philadelphia Traffic Court was to avoid the City Commission hearing where ballot position was determined.

After all, the court is awash with controversy. Nine current or former judges were charged with crimes by federal prosecutors Jan. 31. Three have already pleaded guilty. And the state House is considering two state-Senate-approved bills to eliminate the three seats and abolish Traffic Court.

Warren Bloom, a perennial candidate, didn't attend the standing-room-only event. Commission staffer Gary Ferris picked for Bloom when his name was called.

Ferris reached into the Horn & Hardart coffee can holding numbered bingo balls, a longstanding commission tradition, and pulled the top ballot position for Bloom.

A mix of amazement and angst rolled through the crowd, since ballot position in a crowded field can make all the difference for a candidate. One candidate dubbed Ferris "Good Hand Gary."

Of course, ballot position is no guarantee for election.

Bloom drew the first spot in the 2011 Democratic primary election for City Commission but still finished sixth out of seven candidates. He also ran unsuccessfully for the commission in 2003, and was removed from the ballot in a commission race in 2001 in a petition challenge.

Bloom, noting the Traffic Court controversy, later said his new campaign motto will be: "Forget the gloom, vote for Bloom."

Lewis Harris Jr., another perennial candidate and former Republican leader of the 29th Ward, sent a representative who drew the second ballot position. Harris, now running as a Democrat, has run unsuccessfully twice as a Republican for the state House and once for Traffic Court.

Fareeda Brewington drew the third ballot position on the last of 40 draws.

There are 40 Democratic candidates and two Republican candidates. One of the candidates filed as both a Democrat and a Republican. The commission's previous number of candidates - 39 - was erroneous; it updated its list at Wednesday's hearing.

Twenty-three of the candidates, including Harris and Brewington, face petition challenges.

Court hearings on those challenges start Friday.

Candidates who drew a bad ballot position or who don't want to fight petition challenges - or both - can withdraw from the race by Wednesday.

" @ChrisBrennanDN

Blog: phillyclout.com

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