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Mandel Poll: Mandel 27, Butkovitz 23 in Philly Controller Race

Brett Mandel
Brett Mandel

Challenger Brett Mandel leads incumbent Philadelphia Controller Alan Butkovitz 27% to 23% according to a poll commissioned by Mandel’s campaign. 46% of likely Democratic primary voters are undecided.

The pollster surveyed 400 likely primary voters April 3 to 6 via live telephone interviews. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.9%.

Longshot hopeful Mark Zecca took 4%. The Democratic primary is May 21.

The poll was conducted by DC-based Thirty-Ninth Street Strategies. The same firm polled for the state Senate Democratic Campaign Committee last cycle, as well as Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Lackawanna).

“Mandel’s name identification is about the same as Butkovitz, which should be worrisome for an incumbent who has held the City Controller’s office for over seven years,” said pollster Marc Silverman. “Mandel is in position to score an upset victory over Butkovitz if he has the resources necessary to effectively communicate with voters in the expensive Philadelphia media market.”

Mandel’s name ID was 35% (31-4 positive) according to the poll, while Butkovitz’s was 37% (29-8 positive).

As with any internal campaign polling, the results should be taken with a grain of salt. Political polling firms tend to produce two or more memoranda based on a poll: one is meant for public consumption and paints the best picture; another gives a more detailed analysis – warts and all.

“It’s clearly a manipulated result,” said Butkovitz campaign spokesman Curtis Blessing. “They over-sampled certain parts of the city.”

Additionally, “The poll was conducted over a month ago before any advertising began.”

Mandel was an aide to former Controller Jonathan Saidel and in recent years directed the good government advocacy group Philadelphia Forward.

Butkovitz has served as City Controller since his election in 2005. In 2009, he defeated Mandel in his re-election primary. Many observers expect him to make a run at the Philadelphia Mayor’s office in 2015.

Zecca was an attorney in the city’s Law Department for 20 years.

Mandel and Butkovitz have repeatedly clashed during the heated primary campaign.

A top issue in the race is the Actual Value Initiative, which supporters say would modernize the city’s byzantine property tax system and critics warn would spike taxes for homeowners. Mandel supports AVI, Butkovitz opposes it.

Recently, both candidates have emphasized their supporters.

Former Governor and Philly mayor Ed Rendell backed Butkovitz, saying, “Alan has been a dogged Controller when it comes to attacking waste. He doesn’t go for spectacular headlines, but only strives to find areas where the city can make more money and improve its performance. He deserves another term as Controller.”

The city Democratic Committee, every ward organization but Mandel’s and much of the Philadelphia labor community – including the powerful IBEW Local 98 – are also supporting the incumbent.

Mandel has the support of a variety of progressive groups including the Liberty City Democratic Club, an LGBT advocacy organization. On Friday, he’s holding a press event to highlight endorsements from state Sens. Larry Farnese and Shirley Kitchen.

Full disclosure: the Philadelphia Office of City Controller is a client of Ceisler Media whose principal, Larry Ceisler, is a co-owner of PoliticsPA. Additionally Keegan Gibson is an employee of Ceisler Media.

11 Responses

  1. The issue is Alan Butkowitz’s ties to Emanuel Freeman and Germantown Settlement which Stan Shapiro does not deny. The Controllers failure to investigate and hold Germantown Settlement accountable for massive misspending is reason enough to disqualify.

    Not only did Jason Fagone write extensively, but the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Northwest Independent/ Germantown Chronicle have written on Emanuel Freeman and Germantown Settlement.

    It is good to know that Stan Shapiro is not tangled in the financial web of Emanuel Freeman and Germantown Settlement.

  2. Even if what one says about Brett Mandel’s business ties and advocacy is true, it still doesn’t affect the here-and-now of the Controller’s Office. We are not talking about ancient history, and we are not looking into a crystal ball. We are voting on who is the best fit for the office right now. (I don’t believe Jon Saidel ever made it to another office.)

    As I understand the Controller’s Office, it really does not focus on auditing businesses. That is the job of public accounting firms. The Controller’s Office audits city government. Even if Brett Mandel has tried to come to terms with the city government in the past, the fact that he has been rebuffed makes it even more likely that he will be independent.

  3. The Controller has a bully pulpit that Mandel will exploit constantly to promote his right-wing views. And I have no doubt that he views this office as a stepping stone to higher office, which, if he achieves it, would be a disaster for Philly’s working people. Furthermore, given his non-denial denials to Butkovitz’ claims that Mandel was trying to cut a deal with him, I have doubts that he’s independent for any other reason than he can’t find anyone in power to help him out. Finally, I don’t find independence from the machine enough, if someone has another dependency relationship with the well-heeled elites.

  4. Regardless of who may or may not be an advocate for big business, such advocacy does not affect the adminstration of the Controller’s Office. The important qualities are intelligence, vigor, independence, and transparency, while auditing city government.

    Brett Mandel certainly seems to have an overabundance of intelligence and vigor, and his independence and transparency are unquestionable based on his past stances in opposition to many city officials (whether you agree with his stances or not). Brett Mandel is the best fit to manage this office.

  5. I’m not going to dignify Bob Guzzardi’s insinuations about any involvement I may have had with Emanuel Freeman. I’ll just say this: my involvement with Freeman and/or any of his organizations has been nada, none, zero and zip. If Guzzardi ever chooses to man up and accuse me of any specific wrongdoing associated with Freeman, he will be slapped with a libel suit well before he can even dream up his next slander.
    Guzzardi could choose to civilly discuss his policy differences with me. But that’s not his way; he’d rather insinuate some nefarious financial wrongdoing on my part or throw labels at me. But I’ll confess to one of his terrible, frightening allegations; yes I’m a proud progressive. I don’t actually believe that leaving the governance of our world to the whims of the profit motive and to the oligarchic manipulations of big capital is the best way to go. Guzzardi puts the burden of the near-collapse of Philadelphia government on “anti business and high tax policies” of people like me. But it’s clear who crashed the national economy in 2008, thus devastating federal city and state budgets all across the land. It was the deregulated super-free market and its Wall Street manipulators. Guzzardi and his ilk have been desperately seeking to divert attention from that reality ever since. Blaming unions and high taxes is the major substitute meme. It is hogwash. What actually threatens the City is the further ravaging of vital services that will come about if taxes for the rich are further cut as a result of policies that Guzzardi’s hero Mandel has been pushing for a decade.

  6. The Democratic Establishment cannot afford to have honest and competent controller like Brett Mandel. As controller, Brett Mandel would have no involvement with policy. Controller is supposed to account for and audit City expenditures.

    Although ultra leftist socialist Stan Shapiro accuses Brett Mandel of being a tool of bourgeois capitalists, it should be noted that Alan Butkowitz is tightly wound up with Northwest Philadelphia’s Emanuel Freeman, an ally of now deceased state representative and black nationalist Dave Richardson. Stan Shapiro is has been entwined with northwest for 40 years and I would not be surprised if he is some how a beneficiary of the munificence of government “free money”.

    I wonder if he is afraid of a real investigation of the Emanuel Freeman debacle.

    And what does he know of the involvement or noninvolvement of then state senator Alan Schwartz with Mt. Airy Commons and Edgewood ( an untold story).

    It is worthy of note that Philadelphia, like many other One Party Democratically controlled cities is going bankrupt thanks to anti business and high tax policies of leftists like Stan Shapiro.

    Page 10: “It was the only time I can remember the mayor’s office getting involved in getting a contractor paid,” David Smith says. Vendors are normally paid within 60 to 90 days, a buffer that allows the city to manage its cash flow in an era of nine-figure deficits. Settlement, though, would hand-deliver an invoice on a Tuesday, and a call would come on Wednesday, demanding payment on Friday — a three-day turnaround. Once the managing director’s office approved the payments, they were sent over to the City Controller, Alan Butkovitz, whose job it is to examine all payments to city contractors before the money leaves the city’s accounts. Butkovitz would then approve a physical check for five figures. Soon afterward, a runner working for Freeman would come to the Municipal Services Building on JFK Boulevard and whisk the check back to Germantown, into fiscal oblivion. The payments continued well into the Nutter administration. (Harvey Rice, the first deputy city controller, claims the Controller had no choice but to approve the payments: “[Settlement] served families at high risk.” Then he became agitated, accused me of “bias,” and threatened to “go right to your editor.”)

    Free Market Capitalist Bob

  7. Mandel is so closely tied to the business elites in Philly that he couldn’t escape them with a blow torch. He spent nearly a decade with Philadelphia Forward, an organization that was on a crusade to abolish the Business Privilege Tax on the basis of a supply-side theory that would have made Ronald Reagan gush. Yes, he would probably run a transparent Controller’s Office, but he would also be a relentless advocate for giving big business everything it wants in Philadelphia. If you think that’s the job of government, you should vote for Mandel.

  8. Brett Mandel is a smart guy who often seems to be shunned by the Philly establishment. Nevertheless his background, vigor, and sharpness more than qualify him for this position. He has some fresh ideas, and perhaps it is time for a city post to be filled with someone with vigor and fresh ideas.

  9. I think it’s pretty well expected that if Butkovitz wins, he will soon start his campaign for Mayor.

    So, unless Butkovitz vows to complete a full term as controller (if elected), the voters of Philly should pick Mandel, who will stay in the job for the full term.

    The Philly voters need a controller who is going to do the job they hire him for, not spend his time running for Mayor.

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