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DiCicco DROPs out of Philly Race; Petitions Are in

By Tom Mulkeen, Contributing Writer

Four term city councilman Frank DiCicco announced on Sunday that he will not run for a fifth term because of the difficulty of another tough campaign, drastically changing the tone of the race.

DiCicco was one of three remaining city council members who were eligible to take home a large pension payment and then return to work through a loophole in the controversial DROP retirement program.  He now becomes one of the five council members who will be retiring leaving a major void on the seventeen-person council.

“The numbers show me winning, but I don’t have the stomach to go through this for another 10 weeks,” DiCicco said in an interview with the Inquirer.

DiCicco will be supporting Mark Squilla, president of the Whitman Council neighborhood organization in South Philadelphia where DiCicco’s district seat is located.  Squilla also has the backing of John Dougherty, the powerful electricians’ union leader who has gathered 1,200 signatures for him in Dougherty’s ward alone according to an article in the Inquirer on Tuesday.

Moving forward from DiCicco’s retirement, it will be interesting to see how the crowded race in the first district develops since DROP will become much less of an issue, since there is no incumbent tied to the program in the race anymore.  The deadline for candidates to file petitions was Tuesday and the four Democrats seeking the nomination are Squilla, Joe Grace, Vern Anastasio, and Jeff Hornstein.  Lou Lanni is the only Republican running, but he will have a tough time in the general election in the heavily democratic first district.

Both Grace and Anastasio had made DROP one of the focal points of their campaign.  Both called it their most urgent legislative priority in interviews with the Committee of Seventy.  Grace, the former communications director for Mayor Street has a website connected with his campaign where voters can see what they could buy with DiCicco’s DROP pension money and submit their own suggestions, such as 5.5 Roy Halladay strike outs.  Anastasio is an attorney who like Grace has a long history of community and political organizing.

Hornstein is the former political director of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) who referred to DROP as a “side issue” in an interview with the Daily News after the DiCicco news broke.

Job growth and the economy in the district will probably now take even more of the center stage with DiCicco’s retirement.

Sources tell PoliticsPA that petitions signatures for the District 1 candidates total as follows (approximate): Grace in the lead with 3,500; Squilla and Vern at about 2,900 each; Hornstien with about 2,100.

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