Instead, under the surface, a power struggle quietly brews over who his replacement in Northeast Philadelphia’s 170th district should be. This struggle threatens to tear the local party apart and perhaps even cost Democrats the race.
On one side are the Boyle brothers. Sons of a father who moved to America and worked as a janitor, the two have accomplished quite a lot. Older brother Brendan is now a U.S. Congressman representing PA’s 13th District, while younger brother Kevin is a State Representative from the 172nd District.
They have been strongly pushing the candidacy of Seth Kaplan, who has worked for both brothers. Kaplan was named one of PoliticsPA’s top operatives of 2014 for his work in Brendan’s victory in the four-way PA-13 Democratic primary.
The Boyle group contends that they have the support of the party leadership in Harrisburg and several local unions.
On the other side is Mike Stack. The State Senator is just days away from becoming the Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania, the proverbial heartbeat away from the top office in the commonwealth. The future Lt. Gov has his own ideas about who should get this seat.
Several sources indicated that Stack is leaning towards John Del Ricci, the Community Liaison for Councilman James F. Kenney and works for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.
While careful to note that Del Ricci hasn’t officially declared himself a candidate, one source in the Lt. Governor’s orbit spoke of how highly Stack thinks of him. Del Ricci was described as Stack’s “longest friend politically or otherwise.”
The 170th is entirely within the county of Philadelphia, so each county committee member who lives in the district votes on the nomination.
The Lt. Gov-Elect is the leader in Philly’s 58th ward and holds a majority of the votes. Even someone close to Kaplan described the choice as ultimately Mike Stack’s decision.
Both sides downplay any competition but both are clearly working to line up their supporters ahead of the committee vote.
Nor is it just a friendly competition. Both sides are working their opposition research operations. Asked about some charges from the Boyle camp, a Stack supporter dismissed it out of hand. “Someone is obviously afraid and perceives [Del Ricci] as a threat,” he said.
The committee vote, however, may not be the final factor. A source close to Kaplan said he is open to running as an independent.
“Seth is very actively considering a run as an independent Democrat in the race. He would definitely be supported in an independent run by several unions in the Philadelphia Building Trades and also likely the public sector. He will make a formal decision in a week’s time.”
Any independent or third-party candidate would have to acquire 300 signatures to be placed on the ballot.
All the while, the GOP is hoping to use the infighting to their advantage. They’ve already named their nominee, Martina White. Of course, a split in the Democratic Party would leave White in a favorable position.