Getting On Our Soapbox

Recommendations for the 2015 Democratic Primary

After several weeks of television commercials, direct mail, and robo-calls, the big Democratic Primary Election in Philadelphia is finally happening tomorrow. There are tons of people running for almost a dozen different offices, including Mayor, City Council, City Commissioner, Register of Wills, Sheriff, and a bunch of different types of judges. The ballot is very long and it may seem daunting the first time you look at it. You can see a sample of what the ballot will look like here.

So, to help you navigate your way through this long ballot, I have organized my thoughts on this election and offer the following recommendations. Feel free to bring this with you into the polling booth to guide you in your voting, or forget about it and vote for whoever you want. Just make sure you vote tomorrow. It is important.

The polls are open from 7am to 8pm. If you are not sure where you vote, you can check it out by clicking here.

Below are my choices in the order in which they will appear on the ballot. To help you find each candidate on the ballot, I include their button number in parenthesis.

PENNSYLVANIA SUPREME COURT (vote for no more than 3)

Yes, in Pennsylvania we elect our Supreme Court Justices. And this is a historic year in that regard. Of the 7 seats on our Commonwealth’s high court, 3 of them are vacant. The balance of the court is equally split with two Democrats and two Republicans currently serving. The result of this election can have a long term impact on the direction of the court. With important issues like LGBT equality, women’s health, voting access, workers’ rights, and redistricting all appearing before this body, it is important that we elect justices that share our values. It is also significant that Philadelphia has absolutely no representation on the Court. That is why I am limiting my votes to the two candidates from Philly:

  • Kevin Dougherty (#3) – Kevin Dougherty has served as a judge on the Court of Common Pleas since 2001 and currently serves as the Administrative Judge of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Trial Division, where he oversees all aspects of Pennsylvania’s largest civil and criminal trial court system. Kevin is a great judge, highly respected by everyone who has worked with him. He made great reforms to the Philly courts while he was Administrative Judge of Family Court, where he dramatically increased the number of kids moved out of the system and into loving homes that led to adoption. I was most struck by the kind of person he was when he delivered his campaign kick-off speech in front a room filled with rank and file union members. He told a story about how he once learned that another judge had referred to a transgender child in an official report as “it.” He was so offended that he decided to personally handle all cases of transgender youth who ran into trouble until he was able to recruit the right judges with proper training necessary to give those kids the respect they deserved. I also strongly believe that Kevin is our best chance at winning in the fall. Unlike most of the races on the ballot, the statewide Supreme Court race will be hard fought in the general election against strong Republican opponents. Kevin has there resources needed to win in November.
  • Anne Lazarus (#5) – Anne Lazarus is a highly qualified, well-respected, progressive voice on the bench. She is currently a sitting Superior Court judge (the only one from Philadelphia) and was rated highly recommended by the PA Bar Association. She has a record of winning statewide, and is another strong choice to help bring home a Democratic victory in November.
SUPERIOR COURT (vote for 1)

The Superior Court is the higher of Pennsylvania’s two appellate courts. It hears appeals from the lower trial courts on most criminal and civil cases including those involving children and families. There are 15 justices on the court, and one of those seats is up for election this time. Of the 15 sitting Justices, only one of them is from Philadelphia while 7 are from Pittsburg. Here is my recommendation:

  • Alice Dubow (#7) – Judge Dubow is highly qualified and well respected. She is from Philadelphia and someone I consider a friend.

The Commonwealth Court is the lower of the state’s two appellate courts. It hears cases dealing with decisions of state agencies, and certain cases where the Commonwealth is a party. Here is my recommendation:

  • R. Todd Eagen (#9)
COURT OF COMMON PLEAS (vote for no more than 12)

The Court of Common Pleas is the state’s primary trial court, handling most misdemeanor and felony cases as well as all family court law cases. There are 43 people running for 12 open seats. I recommend:

  • Ken Powell (#12) – Judge Ken Powell is a highly respected jurist already serving on the court having been appointed by the Governor to an open seat. Recommended by the Philadelphia Bar, he is a hardworking, and thoughtful judge who shares my progressive values. He was endorsed by the Democratic Party, Liberty City LGBT Democrats, and the AFL-CIO. I feel very strongly about Ken remaining on the bench and encourage you to vote for him.
  • Daine Grey (#20) – A former public defender, Daine Grey has more than 18 years’ experience practicing law in both state and federal court. He was recommended by the Philadelphia Bar Association and endorsed by the Democratic Party, Liberty City LGBT Democrats the Black Clergy and the AFL-CIO.
  • Rainy Papademtriou (#22) – Rainy has dedicated her career to promoting equal access of justice, helping to give a voice to those who need legal assistance and have nowhere else to turn. Rainy worked on behalf of victims of domestic violence at Women Against Abuse for 8 years. Prior to that, she prosecuted domestic violence cases at the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. Rainy has received an endorsement from virtually every progressive organization in the city, and I am proud to have gotten to know her on the campaign trail.
  • Abbe Fletman (#23) – Abbe is a longtime friend of mine, having worked together on John Street’s first Mayoral campaign in 1999. Abbe is a highly respected attorney and was awarded the Philadelphia Bar Association’s highest rating. She is currently sitting as a judge in an appointed position. She is a member of the LGBT community with diverse support from across.
  • Leon King (#28) – I first got to know Leon when we worked together in the Street Administration. He served as the Philadelphia Prisons Commissioner, the first LGBT person to hold that office. He was a fantastic Commissioner and I am convinced he will be a great judge.
  • Anthony Kyriakakis (#30) – Anthony is a Federal prosecutor who built a career on fighting abuses of power. He prosecuted charter school operators for millions of dollars in fraud, corporate executives for manipulating accounting records, and a physician who stole money from hundreds of low-income Philadelphians.
  • Stella Tsai (#35) – Stella is a distinguished Philadelphia litigator who has represented individuals, non-profits, and businesses in litigation, regulatory, and transactional matters. She is well respected and has been recommended by the Philadelphia Bar Association. If elected, Stella would be only the second Asian-American to ever serve as a judge Pennsylvania.
  • Kai Scott (#36) – Highly recommended by the Bar Association, Kai is a former trial unit chief of the Federal Community Defender Office, and a veteran trial attorney who is experienced in defending complex criminal cases in local and federal courts. She has earned the endorsement of the Democratic Party and almost every organization that offers an endorsement.
  • Mia Roberts-Perez (#38) – Mia is an experienced criminal and family law attorney and has personally tried hundreds of cases. She is the only Latina running for judge, and is the youngest candidate in the field. I think the combination of her significant trial experience along with her youthful energy and fresh ideas will allow her to be a fantastic judge.
  • Fran Fattah (#41) – Fran Fattah is a passionate community activist and an experienced attorney. She is a friend of mine and I hope you’d consider voting for her.
  • Michael Fanning (#43) – Judge Michael Fanning has 24 years of state and federal trial experience. As an assistant district attorney, he helped lead the Child Abuse/Sexual Assault Unit. He was appointed to the bench and deserves to be elected for a full term.
  • Chris Mallios (#46) – Chris has served as Philadelphia’s chief family violence and sexual assault prosecutor and teaches at Penn and Temple. He is an openly gay man backed by a broad coalition of support from all parts of the City. He is a friend of mine and deserves your vote.
MUNICIPAL COURT (vote for no more than 3)

The Municipal Court is the lower trial court, which handles civil actions below a certain value, and less-serious criminal cases. For this court, there are 8 people vying for 3 open seats. Here are my recommendations:

  • Sharon Williams-Losier (#55) – She is in the first ballot position and endorsed by the party. She is likely to win. She is a rock star among party activists. She was an ACLU attorney and a strong supporter of LGBT rights very early on. I am supporting her for judge and hope you will too.
  • Christine Hope (#58) – Endorsed by the party and lots of unions, Christine (or Hopey as her friends call her) has a ton of political backing. She has personally tried thousands of cases and understands how the court affects working families in Philadelphia.
  • Christian DiCicco (#61) – Christian runs a legal practice devoted to helping people when they are at a low point financially. He has served on the Disciplinary Board of the PA Supreme Court, the Tax Review Board, and SEPTA’s Board of Directors. He is the son of former councilman Frank DiCicco.
MAYOR (vote for 1)

I think this is the one office that most people have made a decision on, and my opinion will carry very little weight. But for the record, I am voting for:

  • Jim Kenney (#68) – I am most excited Jim Kenney has become someone who is able to bring together all of the diverse factions of the urban progressive coalition. I am also excited about the passion he has shown on the campaign trail. With Jim Kenney as Mayor, I am looking forward to an exciting future for Philadelphia.
CITY COMMISSIONER (vote for no more than 2)

The City Commissioners make up a 3 person bi-partisan board charged with overseeing voter registration and elections in Philadelphia. In the Democratic Primary, we will choose 2 people from among 6 very qualified candidates. This race has been a difficult one for me. I do work for the City Commissioners and know all of the candidates personally. I consider most of them my friend, and I am still not exactly sure how I will be voting tomorrow. Two of the candidates are fantastic community activists: Tracey Gordon and Will Mega. I have respect for both of them, but in this impressive field of candidates, I cannot recommend them at this time. I do recommend:

  • Lisa Deeley (#77) – This is the easy pick for me. I am voting for Lisa. I have known her for a very long time and even spent time working from a desk right next to hers in Councilman Bobby Henon’s office. I know her really well and am confident that she would make an excellent Commissioner. She has worked the polls at every election for over 20 years, and has over a dozen years’ experience doing community outreach for elected officials all across the city. She is smart, hardworking, and committed to continuing the advances made by the currently sitting Commissioners in bringing the work of the office online, making it more transparent.

For the second seat, I recommend one of the following two excellent candidates:

  • Carol Jenkins (#76) – Carol is a party leader who represents the progressive West Philly / University City section of the city. She is a strong progressive Democrat with a practical understanding of how elections operate in Philadelphia. She is a professor that teaches civics and politics. And I consider her a friend. She would be an excellent commissioners.
  • Omar Sabir (#79) – Omar is an Assistant Policy Advisor to State Senator Vincent Hughes and a great community activist. Encouraging people to vote is part of the job description for a City Commissioner, and Omar has proven he knows how to do that across the city, having received the most votes when he ran for Traffic Court two years ago. Since the Commissioners serve as a body of three, it is important to make sure their strengths can complement each other. I think Omar’s activism and strong ties to different parts of the African American community are important in turning out Philadelphia voters.
REGISTER OF WILLS (vote for 1)

The Register of Wills deals with issue concerning wills and issues marriage licenses in Philadelphia. The incumbent is running for re-election and is not contested.

  • Ronald Donatucci (#81)
SHERIFF (vote for 1)

The Sheriff executes orders of the court, including foreclosures, and provides security for the Philadelphia Court System. The incumbent is running for re-election and is not contested in the Primary.

  • Jewell Williams (#82) –I would like to strongly urge you to support him, regardless of the fact that he has no competition in the primary. Jewell inherited a Sheriff’s office that was in complete disarray almost 4 years ago. And in his first term, he has made incredible reforms. There was no centralized data system to manage the thousands of Sheriff’s Sales that happened each year. Jewell worked with vendors to build a comprehensive system to manage this data, and has made much of it available online—with even more to come. He has streamline the Sheriff’s sale process and increasing the collection of delinquent city revenues by over 40%. He has also beefed up efforts to search out people who are owed excess funds from completed Sheriff’s Sales to make sure they get the money they are owed. I work for Jewell and am proud of the reforms we have made. I think he deserves another term to continue the effort.
CITY COUNCIL AT-LARGE (vote for no more than 5)

This has been one of the more exciting races this year with a lot of great candidates in the field. Democrats get to fill five of these seats, with one of them open as a result of Jim Kenney resigning to run for Mayor. There are 4 incumbents and 12 challengers vying for those 5 seats. This has been another tough race and I have only been able to narrow the field down to 6 candidates. The first three below I feel very strongly about and encourage you to vote for them first:

  • Blondell Reynolds Brown (#90) – Blondell is a longtime advocate of women, children, the LGBT community, and the arts in Philadelphia. She has significant legislative accomplishments including a $60 million “Fund for Children”, mandatory restaurant menu nutrition labeling, Equal Benefits for LGBT partners in city contracts, an inclusive city hate crimes ordinance, and measures to promote female entrepreneurship.
  • Sherrie Cohen (#93) – Sherrie Cohen has a history of progressive activism in Philadelphia that is hard to beat. She successfully fought to keep libraries, pools, and firehouses open in Philadelphia when the Nutter Administration tried to cut these vital city services. She already made history when the city Democratic Party endorsed her this spring, marking the first time that an openly gay candidate for Council has been supported by the party. Elect her tomorrow and she will be the first open member of the LGBT on City Council.
  • Ed Neilson (#96) – I’ve been friends with Ed for over 16 years. He is an incumbent on council, but has served for less than a year, having been elected in a Special Election after Bill Green retired to join the School Reform Commission. Ed is a lifelong activist fighting for working families in Northeast Philly and across the city. Before Ed joined Council, he was a State Representative where he earned a perfect 100% rating in Liberty City’s LGBT scorecard because of his reliable support of every important piece of LGBT legislation.

That leaves 2 spots to fill. I recommend you choose two of the following three great candidates:

  • Paul Steinke (#91) – Paul is a friend of mine, and would make an excellent Councilman. He is best known for serving as the General Manager of the Reading Terminal Market, just a block from my house. He did amazing work building what is now a premier Philadelphia destination. I think it is important to elect a diverse group of At-Large Councilmembers to represent the broadest diversity of viewpoints. An argument could be made that Council needs someone on it to represent the business community. And of all the candidates commonly referred to as business types, I think Paul most closely shares my personal progressive values.
  • William Greenlee (#94) – Bill is one of City Council’s progressive leaders. He most famously fought for and won the passage of Earned Paid Sick Leave legislation. He also was the proud sponsor of legislation to overhaul the Fair Practices Ordinance to include protections for domestic violence victims, the disabled and the LGBT community.
  • Helen Gym (#95) – Helen is a strong advocate for neighborhood public schools and accountability of charter schools. She is an incredible community organizer and has the ability to inspire others into action.

If you live in one of the two Council Districts that has a contested election, I recommend you vote for the following excellent public servants:

  • 2nd Council District: Kenyatta Johnson (#100)
  • 7th Council District: Maria Quinones Sanchez (#101)