Last night, instead of watching the debate, I attended the Democratic primary candidate endorsement meeting for the 27th Ward in Philadelphia. With endorsements to be made for traffic court, court of common pleas, city commissioner, register of wills, sheriff, clerk of the court, state superior court, state supreme court, local city council, five city council at large seats, and mayor, the meeting took more than three hours. The city council at-large seats were particularly difficult, since there were six candidates the ward liked quite a bit, but we could only make a maximum of five endorsements (the majority party is allotted a maximum of five at-large council seats in Philadelphia). I would like to personally endorse the four challengers we took the most time to consider, Andy Toy
, Marc Stier
, Derek Green
, and Matt Ruben
. If there is any way you can help these candidates, I would strongly recommend doing so. The other two candidates, incumbents Bill Greenlee
and Blondell Reynolds Brown
, are very good public servants, but I am far more focused on trying to help the challengers to city council seats this time around. It should be noted that these are the six progressive and reformer candidates who have been endorsed by virtually every single progressive and reformer organization in the city in various combinations. The 27th ward seems to be one of those organizations in its own right
For Mayor, we endorsed Michael Nutter
on the first ballot with over 75% of the ward's vote. Now, a new poll was released today showing Michael Nutter to actually be in a strong position for the upcoming primary
. Susequehanna polling, April 24-25, 450 LVs:
|Date||April 25||March 14||Dec 06||Fav / Unfav|
|Tom Knox||20%||22%||9%||47 / 21|
|Michael Nutter||18%||12%||12%||58 / 16|
|Chaka Fattah||14%||17%||29%||48 / 25|
|Bob Brady||9%||13%||10%||36 / 32|
|Dwight Evans||7%||10%||12%||46 / 17|
With leaners included, Nutter draws to within less than one point of Knox. Note that this is a very different result than the recent Survey USA poll
, which showed Knox cruising. However, across most polls
, Michael Nutter is the only candidate besides Knox who is rising in the polls. Right now, it certainly appears that he is moving into second place, and the last two weeks of the campaign might be Nutter vs. Knox.
From the Susquehanna polling memo:
This poll shows all the movement has gone to Nutter, going from 12 points in the last poll (4th place) to 18% on the current poll which puts him in a virtual statistical dead heat with Knox at 20%. All the other candidates have dropped since the last poll - and the key reason is that Nutter has surged with white Democrats, where he is now in first place at 29% even ahead of Knox at 24%. From a name ID standpoint, Nutter now has the best ratio of favorable to unfavorable name ID while Brady's negatives have shot up, which says to me that Nutter is partly benefiting from Brady's faltering campaign. Among black Democrats, the same trend is showing that even though Fattah continues to lead (at 23%), black support for Fattah and Evans has waned from the last poll while Knox and Nutter have both picked up a couple points, although surprisingly, it is Knox who is finishing second with blacks at 15% (Nutter only has 8%). I think from a big picture standpoint what this poll is telling me is that the black community isn't inspired this time around.
One of the reasons this is so surprising is that Michael Nutter is African-American. It might be the first time, like ever, that an African-American candidate in Philadelphia is winning the white vote. The Democratic primary vote in Philadelphia typically splits along racial lines more than anything else, but this campaign could spell an end to that trend. Or does it? When it comes to pushing himself over the top, Nutter actually faces a problem among African-American voters, where he trails Knox (who is white).
The combination of racial politics and progressive reformer politics in Philadelphia is extremely interesting. If it is true that the African-American community is not very excited about this election, certainly the extreme unpopularity of Mayor John Street (20% approval rating), who is African-American, is playing a major role. In other words, the African-American community might not be very happy with its leaders and representatives in the local political establishment, but isn't thrilled with the existing reform options either. At the same time, it is interesting how the white progressive and reform communities were split between Chaka Fattah and Michael Nutter, not unlike the Obama vs. Edwards split in the progressive blogosphere. However, with Fattah consistently slumping since starting the campaign as the frontrunner, now Nutter seems to be consolidating his support among the white progressive community. However, Nutter still struggles among African-Americans, not unlike early netroots candidates such as Dean, while Fattah is able to at least vaguely stay in the campaign because his African-American support remains decent. In fact, Nutter's early commercials, which seem to be fueling his rise, actually framed him as the anti-John Street reformer, which adds another element to this discussion. Overall, we seem to have a situation where both whites and blacks are unhappy with the Democratic political establishment in the city, but the organizing being conducted to fix the system is itself split along racial lines in much the same way the city has always been split. Further, neither the machine nor the reformers appear strong enough to hold off Knox's millions, which is telling. It is all very convoluted and deserves much, much more discussion. There are lessons here for the progressive movement and the Democratic Party that go far beyond the local level.
The primary is on May 15th. The winners of the primary will all go on to win the general, since Philadelphia is basically a one-party town. I am going to try and have more coverage on both the mayoral and city council campaigns during the next two weeks.