In this corner ... it was veteran legislators vs. rookie state rep.

In this corner : Sims
In this corner : Sims
Posted: March 07, 2014

THE BACK ROOM on the second floor at Tattooed Mom, a bar on South Street near 5th, was perfectly equipped for a collision of Philadelphia's political generations.

Members of Philly for Change, which styles itself as "reform-minded progressive Democrats," sat in old bumper cars while three politicians asked for their support and bashed one another.

The bumper cars, like everything else in the room, were covered in graffiti, a Thunderdome decor for Wednesday evening's grudge match among state Reps. Brian Sims and Mark Cohen, along with former state Rep. Babette Josephs.

Some quick history:

* Sims, 35, was treasurer for Josephs' 2010 re-election campaign and then defeated her when she tried in 2012 for a 15th term in Center City's 182nd District.

* Josephs, 73, declared two weeks ago that she's challenging Sims, claiming he does a poor job with constituent services and misses important House votes.

* Sims, who is supporting a primary challenger to Cohen's bid this year for a 21st term in the 202nd District in the lower Northeast, suggested on Facebook last week that the 64-year-old legislator is known for being "absent-minded and lost" and has been seen talking to plants and walls in the state Capitol.

Josephs, who seemed perplexed by Sims' claim that he does nine times the amount of constituent services that she did, told Philly for Change that she is winning back supporters because of his "scurrilous, unwarranted and personal attack" on Cohen.

"You hardly were born when he started to represent us," Josephs lectured Sims, who was sitting in one of the bumper cars.

Actually, Sims was born four years after Cohen took office.

Sims was unapologetic about supporting challengers to his party's incumbents while in his rookie term, saying that Philadelphia should send the "absolute strongest delegation to Harrisburg, frankly because we've seen what happens when we don't."

To Cohen, Sims offered what sounded like half an apology.

"I said something I shouldn't have, but I wasn't dishonest," Sims said. "My issue that I take is I don't think you're doing the job that Philadelphia needs done."

Sims told Cohen that the jokes in Harrisburg about his "quirky" personality are not funny when the veteran legislator is missing at important State Government Committee hearings, for which he is the Democratic chairman.

Cohen defended his record, saying he has taken strong positions on difficult political issues, and that not winning some of those battles didn't make him incompetent.

"I do have a quirky personality," he told the crowd. "There are not a heck of a lot of people who have served 40 years in Harrisburg."

Speaking of fights . . .

Tuesday is the last day to circulate nominating petitions to get on the May 20 primary-election ballot. At least two people are challenging state Sen. Tina Tartaglione's bid for a sixth term.

Her campaign kickoff rally is scheduled for today.

Former City Councilman Dan Savage, Democratic leader of the 23rd Ward, says he is running.

Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which has tangled politically with the Tartaglione family, gave Savage $12,000 in 2013 and paid another $5,419 for two campaign fundraisers.

Savage works as a regional office coordinator for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.

Tomas Sanchez, husband of Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez, also is running.

He left a job with the procurement and business relations office at Temple University in January.

Sanchez and his wife helped start the Latino Empowerment Alliance of the Delaware Valley, a political-action committee.

GOP fighting, too?

A Republican ward battle is brewing in Northeast Philly - and the GOP chairman is all for it.

"A battle that increases participation of committee people is a good thing," said state Rep. John Taylor, whose election as chairman last year ended a party civil war. "We don't do enough of it. Democrats are used to it. They go to battle and then they make up."

The impending feud will decide who takes over the 66th Ward, a GOP stronghold led by former City Commissioner Joe Duda until his death in January.

City Councilman and 57th Ward leader Denny O'Brien is running for committeeman in his ward and in the 66th, sparking questions about whether one person can be elected to lead two wards.

"I haven't decided what I'll do yet," O'Brien said. "Right now I'm just recruiting people."

Edward Stine, who says he was Duda's "righthand man," said he is locking up support from his former boss' backers.

"The support I'm getting from people - I think that should show that they obviously don't want Denny to have this power grab," said Stine, who worked for Duda's commission office and is now a bartender at Pat's Sports Bar. "I know a lot of people who aren't on the same page with Denny O'Brien anymore."

Taylor said the party bylaws are silent on someone running for two wards at the same time.

- Staff writer Sean Collins Walsh contributed to this report.


Email: brennac@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-5973

On Twitter: @ChrisBrennanDN

Blog: ph.ly/phillyclout

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