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November 04, 2015

Is there really a 'Republican machine' in Philly?

Independent candidate cites long odds to win one of two Council seats

Election 2015 Opinion
Andrew Stober Andrew Stober/LinkedIn

Andrew Stober is the former chief of staff of the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities in Philadelphia. He ran as an independent for an at-large City Council seat.

I covered the mayoral election on Tuesday. You know, the one that was essentially decided in May?

Surfing through the Election Day coverage Wednesday morning, I stumbled across an epic quote in a story about the Philly City Council races.

Late-to-the-mix independent candidate Andrew Stober – he of the endorsements from former Mayor/Gov. Ed Rendell and current Mayor Michael Nutter – told the Inquirer’s Tricia Nadolny, “I think it's a real reminder, there is a very real Republican machine in this city.”

The 7 a.m. insta-reaction: LOL.

Republican machine? In Philly?

Well, that’s rich.

Granted, the quote came in the heat-of-defeat moment from a candidate – the former chief of staff of the Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities is surely a decent man, from all I’ve seen/read/heard – who finished sixth in a nine-person race for a pair of minority-party seats.

With fewer than 17,000 votes, he’d have needed to double that figure to edge out candidates from the traditionally dominant Republican Party of Philadelphia.

Granted, a quick scan of a list of at-large Council members since 1952 didn’t turn up anyone outside the two-party structure – if I missed one, do tell me posthaste (update!) – but there are some other factors at play here, methinks.

Like how even big-name endorsements don’t much matter to Dems who a.) turn out at the polls in lower numbers, b.) pay limited attention to general-election races decided in the party’s primary and c.) aren’t likely to have much impact in a contest that serves as the opposition party’s pretty-much sole mechanism to magnify their voices at City Hall.

Translation: If you were depending on Dems to get fired up in a race that they’ve traditionally never been fired up for, you entered the Colosseum without a sword or shield against lions fighting the only fight they're allowed to win.

But hey, I’m no big-city political candidate. If losing to Republicans for a traditionally Republican-held seat looks like the effects of a GOP Machine At Work, who am I to judge?