'Johnny Doc' may face a challenge as ward leader

John Dougherty
John Dougherty
Posted: March 19, 2014

John "Johnny Doc" Dougherty, the powerful business manager of the city electricians' union, is facing a possible challenge to his position as a Democratic ward leader.

Karen Brown, 52, the Republican candidate for mayor in 2011, changed her registration back to Democratic last month and is trying to regain her longtime spot as a Democratic committeewoman in South Philadelphia's First Ward.

Brown said Monday that if she wins in the May 21 primary election, "I would consider running [for ward leader], and I know there are also other people considering running."

Dougherty, who replaced Joe Hoffman as ward leader in 2010, dismissed Brown's threat as "a farce."

"She's not even allowed to run. Read the rules," Dougherty said, apparently referring to Democratic Party rules that prohibit ward or committee positions for anyone who has supported a non-Democrat at any general election within the last two years.

"She's looking for a job. That's what it's about," said Dougherty, business manager of Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. "That's illegal. I'm not doing anything like that."

Brown had been a Democratic committeewoman since for more than 20 years, she said, before changing her registration in early 2011 to seek the Republican nomination for mayor.

Since that race, Brown said, she has not supported anyone but Democrats. She said she talked to Dougherty about a job three years ago but was not interested now, as she takes paralegal and pre-law classes at Peirce College and Philadelphia Community College.

Based on the pending challenges in the First Ward, any effort to take on Dougherty would be a long shot.

With 21 divisions in the ward, each with two committeemen, it would take just 22 votes for Dougherty to win reelection.

While challenges are underway in 13 of the 21 divisions, the eight uncontested divisions would yield 16 votes. In eight more divisions, there are three contestants for two spots.

Brown complained that under Hoffman, committeemen used to vote on which candidates to support, but the practice ended after Dougherty became ward leader. "You're told what to do, how to do it and how to vote," she said. "There's no democracy."




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