Last week’s primary election wasn’t the most exciting voting contest the city’s had recently. Turnout was a measly 21 percent. There were no hot contests like the mayoral primary of four years ago.

This seemed more or less like a sleeper, with voter interest about as low as I’ve seen it recently.

Despite the lack of, let’s call it enthusiasm, there were a few things to take away from last week’s vote that show those voters who did turn out were interested in sending a few definite, though mixed, messages.

The first takeaway is that the old political machines of Philadelphia, one of the most reliable devices ever made by man, was not enough to save a few institutional Philadelphia politicians from getting a boot out of office.

Locally popular city councilman Frank Rizzo was a good example – City Commissioner Marge Tartaglione, the other. Both were dumped by voters because of tough stories on the city’s DROP program that earned each six-figure cash payouts for taking an early, day-long retirement.

In Chestnut Hill, Rizzo has long been popular, and for good reason. He may not have been a leader on the biggest city issues, but he was a tireless crusader for constituents. He and his staff – including the late Frank Galioto – were great at listening to and taking care of constituents.

Despite his popularity, Rizzo only managed to pick up 119 votes in Chestnut Hill (citywide, he earned less than 5,000 votes, finishing seventh in the Republican field). Voters, it seemed, had drawn a line on DROP and were willing to punish politicians who stood to gain from exploiting it.

The second interesting thing to note is that Milton Street – fresh from serving 30 months for tax evasion – managed to earn 25 percent of the vote against incumbent Mayor Michael Nutter.

Sure, those people who voted for Street knew he wasn’t going to win and that it was merely a protest vote, but the fact that 25 percent of voters were willing to pull the lever for the guy is telling. These were people who decided to actively vote in order to protest Nutter with a vote for an ex -con. The showing even started local pundits musing on a return run by former mayor John Street – the guy everyone couldn’t wait to get rid of a short four years ago.

Locally, in the election for 8th District Council, a widely scattered seven-candidate result is tougher to read. The political machine seems to have delivered results for Cindy Bass – she was endorsed by Nutter, District Attorney Seth Williams, Us. Rep. Chaka Fattah, etc. Bass easily won the 9th Ward with 32 percent of the vote – and almost 40 percent across the district.

That’s not to say Bass will not make a good city councilperson. We don’t know that yet. But her connections certainly helped her overtake other candidates, including the well-funded Howard Treatman. Perhaps the best sign from 8th District voters is that longtime office seeker Greg Paulmier came in second place with much less money and political connections than some of his rivals.

So did the voters show some spark? I think so. But now most can go back to sleep as the Democratic winners run against empty ballots on the Republican side. Maybe we’ll have more exciting choices in four years. Let’s hope so.

Pete Mazzaccaro

 

Letters: This is the first time since I’ve been editor that we’ve had no letters to the editor. I can only assume our readers were planning for the end of days on May 21 that never materialized. Anyway, as you can see, we still have a lot of opinion.  If you have an opinion you’d like to make public, email me at pete@chestnuthilllocal.com. Be sure to put “letter” in the subject line.