Seth Williams, Alan Butkovitz cruise to victories

District Attorney Seth Williams delivering his victory speech Tuesday night at the Galdo Catering Hall in South Philadelphia with daughters Taylor (left) and Hope by his side.
District Attorney Seth Williams delivering his victory speech Tuesday night at the Galdo Catering Hall in South Philadelphia with daughters Taylor (left) and Hope by his side. (STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer)
Posted: November 07, 2013

PHILADELPHIA The two Democratic incumbents running for reelection in this year's sleepy race for controller and district attorney of Philadelphia will be keeping their seats for another four years.

With nearly all of the vote counted Tuesday night, District Attorney Seth Williams and Controller Alan Butkovitz had insurmountable leads over their Republican opponents: Controller candidate Terry Tracy and Danny Alvarez, who was running for district attorney, were each outpolled by 4-1 ratios.

The two incumbents won in part as a result of the low voter turnout (expected to be about 12 percent or less) and the overwhelming Democratic edge in registration, nearly 7-1 over the GOP.

Williams held his victory party at the Galdo Catering Hall in South Philadelphia, while Butkovitz celebrated in Center City at Tavern on Broad.

In his victory speech, Butkovitz touted the job his office has done under his stewardship, including recommending $800 million in savings and efficiencies, and blowing the whistle before various catastrophes such as the school-funding crisis and what he says is an understaffing at the city Department of Licenses and Inspections.

He said would focus on looking for ways to close the school-funding gap.

"The schools crisis is the biggest crisis facing Philadelphia," he said, adding that in his next term he will be looking into how charter schools are funded.

In an interview after his victory speech, Butkovitz gave a glimpse of his future plans.

In the next few months, he said, he will examine the field of potential mayoral candidates and make a decision about whether to make a run for mayor in 2015. His poll results were encouraging since he was hoping for a 72 or 75 percent winning margin, which he exceeded.

Meanwhile, Williams said he would continue to work to reduce gun violence and would focus on reducing school truancy in his second term.

Both Alvarez and Tracy, who were running for office for the first time, gathered at the United Republican Club in the Northeast to await results in hopes of a celebration. Both men gracefully admitted defeat and said they didn't regret anything from their campaigns.

"I think we did really well; we were just very much outfunded," Alvarez said after calling Williams to congratulate him on his victory.

When asked whether he would run for another office in the near future, Alvarez said: "I am going to be looking to be the best husband, father, citizen I can be, and wherever that takes me I will go."

Tracy had a similar tone, saying that he might run for another office in the city and thought that "both campaigns laid a foundation for a more viable Republican Party."

Both races had little excitement. But the low wattage did nothing to discourage the turnout at the Famous 4th Street Delicatessen, one of the traditional lunchtime gathering places for the city's politicos on Election Day.

Williams and Butkovitz both made appearances there, but with their reelections all but assured, much of the chatter turned toward the coming marquee races for governor next year and mayor in 2015. One political aide noted that the governor's race would begin unofficially on Wednesday.

Other possible mayoral candidates who stopped at Famous included State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams and Councilman James F. Kenney.

Even by midday, the low turnout at the polls was apparent.

"I've been out in my district today and the turnout I've seen has been minimum at best," said Councilman Kenyatta Johnson. "The main takeaway is we should continue to educate voters about the importance of every election."

Even with the expected low turnout, Democratic committee people were out on the streets handing out campaign literature and encouraging people to vote. Each street worker was paid $50 for the day, half what the committee strives to pay, according to those familiar with the Democratic committee operations.

During the spring primary, street workers were paid $75 each, while in last year's presidential race they were paid at least $100 each. There are more than 3,000 committee people serving the more than 1,500 divisions within city's the 66 wards.

Although the job of district attorney, which pays just over $170,000, has been a stepping-stone for previous district attorneys, including Ed Rendell and Ronald D. Castille, Williams said he would not run for mayor in 2015.

He wants to continue the work he says has garnered him national recognition.

When Williams came into office in 2009, he transformed how the office prosecutes cases. He moved to a community-based "vertical prosecution" model in which cases are heard and tried by city region, and prosecutors are assigned to handle cases from start to finish.

He has moved thousands of misdemeanor cases into "diversion" programs - such as Veteran's Court, Marijuana Court, and Dawn's Court for accused prostitutes. He has also doubled plea bargains - from 4,000 plea deals in 2008, to 8,352 last year. He also said he has increased the number of felony cases being held for court each month from an average of 41 percent to 75 percent.

Butkovitz, who lives in Overbrook, will be starting his third term as city controller, an independent elected position in charge of auditing all city departments and agencies for their spending and work performance and making recommendations for improvement. The controller can also stop payments to city agencies.

Though the controller's salary is set at $127,000, Butkovitz said he only takes home $109,000, which was his salary prior to a 2008 raise. He handles an office budget of $7 million-plus.

Butkovitz previously said he is looking to build alliances, especially with Council, in order to push more policy through in his role as controller.


cvargas@phillynews.com

215-854-5520 @InqCVargas

Inquirer staff writer Troy Graham contributed to this article.

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