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Philadelphia Candidates Fish For Coveted Top Ballot Position

By John McDonald, PoliticsPA Contributor

Most of the candidates for Philadelphia’s major electoral offices gathered in City Hall Room 676 this morning for the ritual drawing of the ballot positions.

The process is straightforward – balls marked with numbers are placed in a can, and each candidate draws a number to determine his or her ballot position – but the stakes can be high.  Drawing a coveted No. 1 spot can make a significant difference in a crowded field whose candidates (and offices) have little name recognition.

And that’s exactly what incumbent City Councilman Bill Greenlee, a Democrat, did on Wednesday.  Considered vulnerable in a crowded field (20 Democrats  filed nominating petitions to run for five at-large seats), Greenlee’s chance for reelection improved after drawing a spot at the top of the list.

“The biggest thing is, the folks who want to find me, will find me,” Greenlee told the Philadelphia Inquirer after the drawing. “There’s no getting lost on the ballot.”

Greenlee’s four fellow at-large Democratic incumbents – Blondell Reynolds Brown (5), Bill Green (11), Jim Kenney (14) and Wilson Goode, Jr. (20) – found themselves scattered throughout the rest of the field.

Other Notable Drawings:

GOP At-Large. Among the Republican candidates for at-large City Council seats (the top five finishers in the May primary will compete for two seats reserved for the minority party — always the GOP — in November’s general election), incumbent and 2007 top GOP vote-getter Frank Rizzo drew the seventh ballot position.  (Fellow GOP at-large councilman Jack Kelly announced his retirement earlier this year.)

Michael Untermeyer, who ran unsuccessfully for Philadelphia District Attorney in 2009, pulled the top slot.   David Oh, who nearly unseated Kelly four years ago, drew No. 4.  State Representative Dennis O’Brien, who declared his intention to run for City Council in January, drew fifth ballot position, with 2007 GOP mayoral candidate Al Taubenberger one spot behind him.

1st District. Activist Vern Anastasio, who unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Frank DiCicco in 2007, pulled the first ballot position.  (DiCicco recently announced he would not seek a fifth term).  Joe Grace, Mayor John Street’s one-time communications man, drew the second slot.

2nd District. Frontrunner Kenyatta Johnson, a state representative whose district partially overlaps with Philadelphia’s second councilmanic district, drew the sixth and final ballot slot.

3rd District. Incumbent Jannie Blackwell drew the third and final ballot position.

6th District. In what looks to be a heated primary battle to replace the retiring Joan Krajewski, Bob Henon, political director for powerful International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98, drew the top spot.  Former School Reform Commission member Marty Bednarek drew the second position.

8th District. Former 12th Ward Democratic Leader Greg Paulmier drew the No. 1 position.  Longtime Chaka Fattah aide Cindy Bass will be one slot behind him.  Real estate developer Howard Treatman, who has pledged to self-fund and enlisted seasoned strategist Dan Fee to run his campaign, drew the fifth position.  Longtime public servant Verna Tyner, who served as chief of staff to Councilmen David Cohen and Bill Greenlee, will be slotted seventh.

Mayor. Neither Mayor Michael Nutter nor his opponent, T. Milton Street, showed up to draw their own ballot position.  Audible guffaws filled the room when a designated city employee drew No. 1 for Street.

2 Responses

  1. It was a pleasure to draw on behalf of my friend Malcolm Lazin (pulled #2), Republican at-Large candidate for City Council. I’ve been involved in politics for years and have never participated in the ballot position draw. I would encourage any citizen or politico to check it out in their own county courthouse! It is a truly interesting exercise in democracy!

  2. Here’s something for voters who care about issues rather than ballot position: the Progressive At-Large Council Candidates Forum. It takes place Monday, March 21st at 6:30PM at the Free Library Central branch, 19th and Vine. The questions will be posed by a variety of people-oriented advocacy organizations in the City. They’re progressive, (thus the title of the event.) We’ll see about the candidates.

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