Official objects to her political party's plans for a special election

MICHAEL BRYANT / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER City Commissioner Stephanie Singer, shown on Election Day 2012, has clashed with her party before.
MICHAEL BRYANT / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER City Commissioner Stephanie Singer, shown on Election Day 2012, has clashed with her party before.
Posted: March 12, 2014

CITY COMMISSIONER Stephanie Singer, part of a three-member panel that oversees elections in Philadelphia, has a problem with the way her political party will select a candidate today for a vacant City Council at-large seat.

Singer, in an email Sunday to about 4,000 people on her campaign list, questioned the "accountability" and "transparency" in the Democratic process.

Singer said in other Pennsylvania counties, candidates for a special election are voted on by a political party's committee members, who are elected by voters.

Not so in Philadelphia, where the 69 Democratic ward leaders will make the pick in a private meeting at noon at the party's headquarters.

"The ward leaders are not even directly elected by the voters," wrote Singer, who previously served as leader of Center City's 8th Ward. "A ward leader is elected by the committeepeople once every four years."

There are 1,687 precincts in the city's wards, each with a potential for two committee members. Using Singer's suggestion, the candidates would be selected by up to 3,374 committeepeople.

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, chairman of the Democratic Party in Philadelphia, said through a spokesman that he is following the law.

"If anyone wants to change it, they can," spokesman Ken Smukler said. "But until they do, we'll follow the law."

The city charter gives the Council president the power to call a special election. The Pennsylvania Election Code calls for the Democratic and Republican parties to select a candidate. The Democratic City Committee's bylaws call for that to be done by a vote of the ward leaders.

Council President Darrell Clarke last week called for a special election to be held during the May 20 primary election to fill the seat of former Councilman Bill Green IV, who resigned last month to become chairman of the School Reform Commission.

The Democrats are expected to select as their candidate state Rep. Ed Neilson, who is finishing his first term in a district that was moved by redistricting in 2012 from Northeast Philadelphia to York County.

Matt Wolfe, a lawyer and Republican ward leader in West Philly, wants his party's nomination.

Independent candidates must collect the signatures of 1,785 registered voters on nominating petitions by April 8 to secure a spot on the ballot.

Singer ran as a reformer in 2011, defeating in the Democratic primary election Commission chairwoman Marge Tartaglione's bid for a 10th four-year term. Singer was elected chairwoman in January 2012 but then clashed with her colleagues, Democrat Anthony Clark and Republican Al Schmidt.

They ousted her from the chairwoman's post the day after the 2012 general election. Clark is now chairman and Schmidt is vice chairman.

On Twitter: @ChrisBrennanDN


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