Neilson easily wins Phila. Council at-large seat

State Rep. Ed Neilson, at Famous 4th Street Deli on Tuesday, will take over Bill Green's seat.
State Rep. Ed Neilson, at Famous 4th Street Deli on Tuesday, will take over Bill Green's seat. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff)
Posted: May 22, 2014

State Rep. Ed Neilson, a former political director for the city Electricians union, will soon be swapping his legislative seat for a chair in City Council.

Neilson, 50, now serving his first term in the state House from the Far Northeast, easily won Tuesday's special election to replace Councilman-at-Large Bill Green.

Picked by Democratic ward leaders as their candidate, Neilson defeated Republican lawyer Matthew Wolfe and the Libertarian Party's Nikki Allen Poe to fill out the remaining 19 months of Green's term. Green resigned this year after Gov. Corbett named him chairman of the School Reform Commission.

Buoyed by the city's overwhelming Democratic registration edge, Neilson led Wolfe in unofficial tallies by a margin of better than 5-1, with most of the votes counted in a low-turnout election.

He'll take office as soon as the count is official, probably within several weeks - just in time to vote on the toughest issues facing the city: the city budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, the school-funding crisis, and the proposed sale of the Philadelphia Gas Works.

"We're still fighting for more education funding in Harrisburg," Neilson said in a brief interview Tuesday night. "The School District is hurting, and we need to make sure the state pays its fair share."

He identified city schools and jobs as his top priorities, endorsing an effort to get the Broad Street Line extended south into the Navy Yard.

Neilson followed his father and grandfather into Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers soon after graduating from Abraham Lincoln High School.

He became the union's political director in the 1990s, helping "to create what has become the Local 98 political machine," as business manager John J. Dougherty Jr. said this month.

Neilson left the union 10 years ago to work in the Rendell administration, in the Department of Labor and Industry and the Department of General Services.

With $225,000 in support from Local 98, Neilson won a special election in 2012 to fill the state House seat of Dennis O'Brien, now a city councilman.

But the seat was eliminated in legislative redistricting, and Neilson faced a battle against another Democratic House member, John Sabatina Jr., to stay in the legislature.



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