Dunbar in Disarray: Police Incident & Staff Problems Mire Dem Challenger

William Dunbar

Philadelphia — Bad poll numbers, a police incident with a former staffer, and a campaign run by students. It’s another day on the campaign trail for William Dunbar.

The Democratic challenger to John Taylor, Philadelphia’s last Republican state Representative, has been mired in problems since September.

Philadelphia would appear to most Pennsylvanians as a dark blue dot on the map thanks to its overwhelmingly Democratic population. However, the perception of the city as uniformly Democratic is wrong.

For decades, Northeast Philadelphia was Republican territory. Ten years ago, this section of the city sent five Republicans to the State House. Until just four years ago, there were still four Republican State Reps from the Northeast. But then things began to change.

First, Brendan Boyle won the seat of longtime Rep. George Kenney, becoming the first Democrat ever elected to that district. Boyle is now chairman of the House Democratic Campaign Committee and considered a rising star. Two years later, Boyle’s brother Kevin ousted embattled former House Speaker John Perzel. Finally, earlier this spring, Democrat Ed Neilson narrowly won the open seat vacated by former Speaker Denny O’Brien.

That leaves one lone Republican standing: John Taylor in the 177th District, comprising Port Richmond, Bridesburg and other neighborhoods. Given the changes in the Northeast, Democrats thought a strong challenger may now be in a great position to take down this 28-year incumbent. In a presidential year, with Barack Obama at the top of the ticket, many believed that Dunbar would be the candidate to finally beat Taylor and solidify the Democratic surge in the Northeast.

Dunbar, 28, is a former staffer to U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah and was Director of Children and Youth Programs at United Communities Southeastern Philadelphia.

But Dunbar’s personal issues – including an altercation with his campaign manager in September – make the switch far less likely.

The Incident

In September, Philadelphia police officers and Public Safety officers at the University of Pennsylvania responded to a call.

According to an incident report from Sept. 11, 2012, Dunbar threatened a staffer, his former campaign manager, with bodily harm at a coffee shop on Penn’s campus.

Dunbar’s campaign staff had walked out a few days earlier when he refused to pay their salaries for the month of August, according to three independent sources. It didn’t end there. For days, Dunbar repeatedly called and harassed his former staff.

That Saturday, his former campaign manager met with an intern who had decided to stay with the campaign. He said he intended to show the intern how to use some campaign software. PoliticsPA is honoring the staffer’s request not to be named.

He said Dunbar ambushed and threatened him.

“He told me, ‘You won’t make it to your car. My guys are waiting for you,’” the staffer told PoliticsPA. He said Dunbar made threats like, “You’re gonna die,” and said Dunbar slapped a cell phone from his hand when he tried to call authorities after a lengthy argument. Two witnesses corroborated the staffer’s story, according to the U. Penn Public Safety incident report.

Dunbar and his former campaign manager separated after Penn Campus Safety offices and Philadelphia Police officers arrived at the scene.

That wasn’t all.

Dunbar showed up at the doorstep of another person, that former staffer told PoliticsPA. When this staffer refused to meet Dunbar, the candidate flooded his phone with aggressive text messages and phone calls to get him to come out.

Dunbar denied all of the allegations, and said he had fired both members of his staff.

“If you had read the police report, you would see that the the staffers were fired, and asked to leave because they stole pertinent info related to the campaign,” he said. “I don’t want to talk about why people may or may not have left my campaign.”

No charges were filed as a result of either incident. If they had been, they wouldn’t be Dunbar’s first. He’s been convicted of theft by credit card in 2004 and was charged but not convicted of simple assault in 2006. He still owes thousands of dollars in court fees.

Just this week, Taylor’s campaign sent out a mail piece hammer Dunbar on the record.

The Campaign

Since the professional staff walked out, Dunbar’s campaign has been managed primarily by students, according to a third source with direct knowledge of the campaign. They’re tall on idealism but short on experience, the source said.

In terms of the race now, Dunbar said he’s been out and about in the community helping the people recover from the damage from Hurricane Sandy. In this last weekend before the election, Dunbar said, “we are doing doors, [get out the vote] efforts and lit. It’s not about being Democratic or Republican. It’s about serving the community.”

In a race that had been considered a possible Democratic pickup as recently as August, Dunbar is no longer among the top tier House challengers in PA.

Operatives from both parties say that Taylor polls above his party by double digits and that Dunbar hasn’t been able to move the numbers. This is despite Dunbar’s decent fundraising pace. He raised over $138,000 so far this campaign and had over $91,000 on hand as of Oct. 22 – $70,000 of it from Grant Venerable of Lincoln University.

Rep. John Taylor (R-Phila)

For his part Taylor, 57,  seemed to laugh off the notion that the race is very competitive. He said he’s saving money this cycle that he knows he’s going to need when a more formidable opponent comes around.

After running 14 other opponents, he said he doesn’t think that Dunbar is a someone who understands the needs of this district. “I have no intention of going anywhere,” he said.

Taylor has proven himself immune from the liabilities of his party label because he runs a strong constituent service operation and brings home the bacon.

“The difference between me and Dunbar is that he came here from somewhere else and doesn’t understand the depth that we have in this community. My service in the community and great legislation record for the year shows we’re working for the people.”

November 2nd, 2012 | Posted in Front Page Stories, Harrisburg, Top Stories | 16 Comments

16 thoughts on “Dunbar in Disarray: Police Incident & Staff Problems Mire Dem Challenger”

  1. Jennifer Keeler says:

    So happy the truth came out about this horrible human being. Oh how do I know this? He hired me and then a day later – without paying me – told me that ” The Pennsylvania Campaign Committee are the ones who made the choice for me to be ousted. I wanted to run an honest campaign. All the reports about him are true. I would alsop add the FBI investigation into Credi Card fraud by Mr. Dunbar using someone’s creditcard.. He brought in Tracy Hardy who is liar and a fake. This is the guy who on Malik Boyd’s campaign was messing around with PAC money and transferring money to and from accounts. Both campaigns have Tracy Hardy in the middle of them. – But as he yelled to me” my resume speaks for itself loser” Yes, Yes it does.
    Dunbar let me go and I did nothing wrong. I tried to talk with the leaders of the Penn Campaign. This was a year or so ago and it still matters. I am a lot of things but I refuse REFUSE to be part of anything illegal and work for someone who threatenes their staff and also doesn’t pay them He claims that if I won the race for him there would be a ” 5,000 bonus” Funny when I asked for it in writing he said ” I can’t do that”. If anyone in the media wants more details on this man, don’t hesitate to contact me, I have the email I sent asking for help. I have been doing this work for ten plus years and I have never seen anything like these two men in professional politics. I guess that’s the difference – we are professionals and Dunbar and Hardy – just aren’t

  2. barbara says:

    Will Dunbar is a criminal and a liar. Who would vote for a man that tells people he is a lawyer. Shame on the people who vote for him. He is a foul mouth, liar who will not represent me and will not be a role model for my children. What is wrong with the Democratic party for backing him. Are they so desparate that they are allowing those who have records for stealing and cannot speak properly to run on their ticket?

  3. Gary Johnson 2012 says:


    Your vast legislative knowledge is impressive, but your literacy skills are not.

    I complimented his staff and if anything they are more responsible for Taylor’s success then he himself. And we agreed that Dunbar is a joke and a criminal by all accounts.

    I hope you received some catharsis by going on an irrelevant tangent.

  4. Gary Summerfield says:

    I’m a life long democrat from Kensington.now let me explains just a little about why this democrat pulls that republican lever..John Taylor is one of the most open and honest transparent political figures to grace the political scene in Philadelphia for last 28 years. His staff go above and beyond to help any one and every one who should ask.his proactive responses to blight, crime and quality of life issues are spot on and much needed
    Any one who thinks they can do a better job has some pretty big shoes to fill.and I honesty must say I really just plain like the guy!

  5. Ok whoever is posting under “Gary Johnson 2012” is a complete idiot. I am libertarian, registered Democrat because I want to continue to influence the City Democratic Primaries, and I’ve had many personal interactions with Taylor and his staff. YOU HAVEN’T. That is patently obvious. From ’07-’12 Taylor has supported urban issues as well as he voted for the Castle Doctrine update to the Pennsylvania Criminal Code allowing stronger affirmative defenses against prosecutors and civil litigants when you are forced to act lethally in self-defense of your person. Taylor has worked to bring Act 135 in existence which allows people who are so fucking fed up with blight that they are willing to spend their own money to takeover abandoned property that owners will not do a thing with to haul those owners to court and get conservatorship over the property. Taylor’s support and backing in Port Richmond, Kensnington and Bridesburg OVERWHELMINGLY comes from Democrats—Democrats who know better than to vote for people like Dunbar or any other toadies from the Fattah Organization. Because they know Taylor actually helpes them, where Fattah toadies and all the other miscreants who have stood up to Taylor in the past have fallen flat with empty promises, no records and the only people they have proven to serve is themselves. I don’t see PAGOP coming down from their high horse to claim Taylor is unworthy to continue in his position. And now Taylor is the ONLY Republican from Philly that they have left, who commands tremendous respect from the community he serves, including my own. So save your shrill crap for some other race. You don’t know ANYTHING about this particular PA House race, that’s for damn sure.

  6. Karen says:

    John Taylor understands that he serves all of us in the community regardless of what party we belong to. He happens to be one the few politicians who actually treats me with respects and listens to my concerns for safety and sanitation issues on my block. My own party treats me with such disrespect and disdain, I don’t even go to them for any issues.

    He’s one of the few politicians in this city who isn’t part of the pay to play group and doesn’t have his hand out, ignoring those of us who live right her.

  7. Theresa C says:

    Dunbar doesn’t stand a chance. He has no experience, was fired from one of the few places he actually worked, he has a criminal record. let’s face it = i’ve heard him speak and was unimpressed. I would never believe this guy graduated from any college! We will NEVER give up John Taylor in the riverwards. The praise Taylor gets is well deserved!

  8. Lynn Adair says:

    Let the Truth be told! John Taylor has been and will be the only State Rep. I know that cares about his State,County, in a manner to bring good services to all that pass through his offices. To my knowledge, I never heard anyone say they didn’t get services from Taylor’s office because of their party. On the other hand I have heard people were turned away because of their party in other offices. Yes! of course people who can’t get their problems resolved through his office will bad mouth him. This is just a sample of the kind of people that will always be the first to Bash A Good Person. I am a life long resident of Port Richmond and what a GREAT Place to live. Thank you John Taylor for being the kind of person you are. Keep up the great work! Your people know you care.

  9. Gary Johnson 2012 says:

    Additionally , I could accuse you of “thinking you’re smarter than everyone else… Issues with people who don’t think like you.” But that doesn’t serve for discourse on a political site, or as you called it “trolling.” People disagree and you responded to my post with nothing more than what I guess is anger.

    I guess we could both stop being presumptuous about one another.

    Btw, I think the fact that John Taylor is a republican is good for the area. A one party hegemony in Philadelphia is bad news and leads to more problems. I wish there was a serious Republican Party in Philadelphia to hold the self servings Dems accountable.

  10. Gary Johnson 2012 says:

    You’re right about me for the most part. I am an elitist I suppose, not super liberal but lean to the left on most occasions. And in all honesty who truly loves welfare neighborhoods? You pegged me wrong there. ( Also fail to understand the Graham Spanier reference, but assume it was meant as an insult.)

    Dunbar is a joke who is unfit for public office, so we agree there…

    I guess where we truly disagree is my original point, which I believe you first made assumptions about me being from York county. Never the less, career politicians are a plague that philadelphia has been saddled with. Look at the incompetence in city council. We have Denny O’Brien who is the epitome of this. Moves from the state house (with a huge pension) to council (where he has already collected a COLA raise, and will presumably collect another huge pension.) These people have been milking there positions for as long as I have been alive.

    I’m sure John Taylor is a good man, and I’m glad he was able to help your mother, I have heard similar stories about his great constituent service, he must hire top notch staff. I guess where we truly disagree is the matter of elected officials as an institution. Although in my original post I did take a shot at Mr. Taylor for not calling etc, my point was more of an indictment Philadelphia’s penchant re-electing officials regardless of legislative records or service.

    If you don’t mind that so be it, this is how democracy works.

  11. Jennifer says:

    Living in Port Richmond my entire life, I feel compelled to respond.

    I amazes me that people assume our neighborhood is declining when there is no documented proof of that. Actually the complete opposite. Brand new construction all over and selling before they are complete!!! Does that happen in a declining neighborhood? I think not. John Taylor is one of the last “good” politicians left in our area. He has always been a very hands on State Rep! When I met Dunbar, I was embarrassed for him. It was one of the most uneducated conversations I have ever had. To think that Democrats put him here to take over our neighborhood is a joke. We will not let it happen!

  12. Mike says:

    Gary Johnson,
    So not only do you know Philadelphia like the back of your hand(ha), you, through your all-knowing wisdon, know my thoughts on the issues of Legislator service tenure and welfare, and you know I’m a Republican. Further, to really stick it to me, you pointed out that your assumed policy position for me, were hypocritical.

    So I guess it’s only fair if I throw some assumptions around and then deduct a conclusion based off of those assumptions.

    By the tone of you’re writing you’re obviously an elite liberal that believes he is smarter than everyone else. Further, you have an issue with any person who doesn;t think like you. So, why don’t you take your elitist, ignorant, liberal, Graham Spanier-like attitude elsewhere instead of trolling political sites looking for fights. Perhaps get a real life.

    John Taylor is a good, hard-working man that helped my mother out tremendously when my father died. His office is efficient and their constituent service is top-notch. Further, it’s his hard work that has kept many neighborhoods in his district from turning into the welfare neighborhoods that you apparently love.

    Get a life. This guy running against him is a scumbag.

  13. Gary Johnson 2012 says:


    Lets see here.. Tell me what I said that’s untrue?

    So you must love career politicians who suck of the public teet for decades. But let me guess you’re the first person to complain about welfare recipients… Typical hypocritical republican. You’re part of the problem.

    Btw. The Gary Johnson name is in pure jest.

  14. KM says:

    “In this last weekend before the election, Dunbar said, “we are doing doors, [get out the vote] efforts and lit. It’s not about being Democratic or Republican. It’s about serving the community.””

    Maybe it’s just me but could someone explain to me how does canvassing and making pleas for votes serve the community in their recovery from Sandy

  15. Mike says:

    Gary Johnson, don’t comment on Bridesburg when you have no clue what you’re talking about. Go back to York County.

  16. Gary Johnson 2012 says:

    Interesting stuff from the Philly side of things.

    Seems like Dunbar never really stood a chance, but the second issue that needs to be addressed is society referring to politicians as “an institution.”

    How does this happen? Please spare me the great constituent service excuse. John Taylor isn’t calling about food stamps or unemployment. 28 years in office and what does Port Richmond really have to show for it other than a declining neighborhood.

    At least Mayfair voted out that self serving criminal Perzel for a higher class of elected official.

    Constituencies across the state really need to start looking in the mirror. We all deserve better.

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