In Philadelphia, we support affirmative action. You may not know it by looking at our highly segregated public schools and universities, but we do. How do you know? You can tell by looking at the composition of our City Council.
You see, our city’s voters are almost 75% Democratic. In 2007, our last Municipal election, Republican voters only accounted for 14% of the total ballots cast. That is a mere 21,421 of the total 166,855 votes.
With such an overwhelming registration edge. In a very progressive city, you have to wonder, how do any Republicans ever get elected to City Council.
The answer: a form of affirmative action. Our Home Rule Charter mandates that, “Minority representation is assured by the requirement that no more than five candidates may be elected for Councilmen-at-large by any one party or political body. “ In other words, since the Republicans are the only other viable alternative to Democratic rule, they get two seats.
These two At-Large seats are currently held by Councilman Frank Rizzo Jr. who won by getting 76,937 votes and by Councilman Jack Kelly who received 61,239 votes. Since only 21,421 votes came from Republicans, these two guys did pretty well. That is, until you realize that the next lowest Democratic vote-getter, Madame Councilman Blondell Reynolds-Brown received 10,000 more votes than both Rizzo and Kelly combined.
Both Rizzo Jr. and Kelly are unusual birds in their party’s ranks these days. They are moderates in a party that today tip-toes on far the right-edge of the political platform last held by Attila the Hun. In fact, I think that the two Councilmen’s votes are generally good on labor and a few other progressive issues and that they both are rational people that will listen to reason.
Though Councilman Rizzo Jr. and Kelly serve our progressive city well, their political party no longer shares values with the voters of our city. Councilman Jack Kelly is rumored to be eyeing retirement. There is a good chance that the next Republican At-Large Councilman may be a Tea Party wing-nut. Also, I should mention that he has held his seat since 1987. So who ever wins this seat can expect to have it for a looooong time.
That is unless a decent progressive, third-party, candidate could take over the affirmative action seat that has traditionally been held by the Republicans.
The question then becomes, is there a viable third-party candidate. Oh damn.
The usual suspects, the Green and the Socialist parties have rallied over the years. Both (lower-case) parties offered candidates in the last At-Large race and pulled in less than 1% of the vote combined versus the 14.% of Rizzo Jr. and the 7% of Kelly. The prospects of third-party candidates weren’t always so bleak.
In 1975, Charles Bowser, a hero of the labor and the civil rights movements, ran for Mayor as an independent, “Philadelphia Party” candidate against Democrat Frank Rizzo Sr. and beat the Republican challenger Thomas Foglietta. Though he lost to Rizzo Sr. by 177,000 votes, he did beat the Republican by 37,000 votes.
So, what does that mean. I am not a statistician. So, I don’t know. But, at a glance, I would say that IF there were a progressive candidate (one not saddled with the self-destructive baggage of the Greens or Socialists) that could unite a moderate/left coalition of labor, civil rights, feminists, immigrationists (is that a word?) and environmentalists, they might have a chance.
Here’s the math as I see it. Or, more accurately, “as I don’t see it.” From my kitchen table, I cannot tell you the total vote counts in this race in 1975. Sadly, the 2007 Philadelphia municipal election doesn’t give me too many clues. Maybe you can help.
I don’t know the total vote of the 1975 election. What I do know is that Rizzo beat Bowser by 177,000 votes (ouch). I also know that that number of votes for Rizzo accounted for 57% of the total. According to what I have dug up on-line, Bowser also beat his Republican opponent by 37,000 votes (given that the numbers on-line are accurate…dubious).
So, math freaks, what is my sentence problem here? Or, can someone with the database tell me how many votes Bowser got? More importantly (on the grim side), what are the chances that a third-party candidate could beat a Republican candidate if there are only 21,000 Republican voters. OR, probably more accurately, what are the chances that a third-party candidate could get at least 61,240 (1 more vote that Jack Kelly) votes. All of which probably mostly depends on who the Republican candidate is.
This is confusing. Get to work.