Yay! Election on Tuesday!

May 17, 2009

Remember elections? Very few Philadelphians know this, or care about it, but there’s a pretty crucial local election on Tuesday.

I wanted to summarize what’s going on so you can take 2 minutes out of your Tuesday and get your democracy on.

No one you ever heard of is running, but some of these races could really affect whether you get your ass shot while walking around the city.

This summary is for the Democratic primary; there is no competitive race with the Republicans. (Full coverage here.)  There are three races–for various judicial seats, for district attorney and for controller. There’s also 2 ballot questions.

The most important race is the District Attorney. There are five candidates, and this is why it’s important.
CANDIDATE SUMMARIES (from the inky) (after the jump)

End the overzealous charging and prosecution of minor crimes. Instead of seeking convictions, divert offenders who commit petty, nonviolent crimes into alternative sentencing programs, such as drug treatment and community service. This would free up space in the courts and prisons. As a result, fewer serious offenders would get out early on parole or have their cases dismissed because prosecutors didn’t have enough time to gather evidence. Assign prosecutorial teams to specific neighborhoods. This would increase residents’ familiarity with the District Attorney’s Office and their cooperation as witnesses. It could also foster greater use of local resources for alternative sentencing, thanks to closer ties between prosecutors and community groups. Maximize penalties for crimes committed with guns. Press for the maximum state prison term for any gun-related offense. Step up the pursuit of drug dealers. This could cut down on drug-related gun violence and generate forfeiture funds to help supplement the district attorney’s budget during the city’s fiscal crisis.


(The Inquirer endorsed Seth Williams)

Assign assistant district attorneys to the city’s 24 police districts. This would be the foundation of a program of “vertical prosecutions” in which an assigned A.D.A. would handle a case from arrest to sentencing, making the system more user-friendly for victims and witnesses.Seek legislation allowing the videotaped testimony of witnesses – under oath, with cross-examination – as evidence. Preserving trial testimony in this way would reduce witness intimidation. Further, ask the U.S. Marshal’s Service to provide witness protection program packages in a number proportional to the homicide rate. Reduce court and prison overcrowding by using community-based diversion programs for nonviolent offenders with minimal criminal records. Create a Municipal Corruption Unit within the D.A.’s Office charged with uncovering waste and fraud.


(Endorsed by Daily News)

Reduce illegal guns by seeking the minimum five-year sentence for firearms violations, prosecuting straw purchasers who illegally resell guns, and improving coordination of federal, state, and local law enforcement through an expanded Gun Violence Task Force. Establish a violent-crime strike force to identify repeat offenders and monitor them through the criminal justice system, including their imprisonment and parole. Create a specialized corps of lawyers and investigators to uncover and prosecute public corruption, fraud, and economic crimes. The unit would coordinate its efforts with the Philadelphia Inspector General and the Board of Ethics. Establish a victim-witness services office to provide “customer service” for witnesses, including status information about cases to reduce inconveniences associated with court delays. The office would also prosecute witness-intimidation cases.


Increase the staff of the district attorney’s Special Investigations Unit to make fighting municipal corruption a higher priority. Lobby Harrisburg to allow Philadelphia to enact its own gun-violence ordinances. Create an anonymous tip line for residents to report witness intimidation. Create an anti-truancy task force in the District Attorney’s Office to work with school officials and police.


As “gatekeeper” of the criminal-justice system, the district attorney should halt prosecutions if credible witnesses say the wrong person was arrested instead of automatically passing cases to the judiciary to sort out. Reactivate the disbanded narcotics prosecution unit to target drug dealers more effectively. Create a Web site to track activity in the city’s courtrooms. Some judges, he says, have been “lazy, incompetent, and uncaring.” Rather than clog criminal courts, divert cases involving nonviolent, drug- and alcohol-addicted defendants to community treatment programs.


Thirty-three people are running for 11 10-year terms on various municipal courts, and an additional 3 open seats on the state Superior Court and Commonwealth Court. The local races are usually won by whomever gives the mandatory $35,000 “assessment” to the Democratic primary, plus untold hundreds of thousands more to the Democratic wards. Ballot position is also important. The candidates are not, by law, allowed to debate or discuss the issues. Remember, you have the option of abstaining from this part of the ballot. (Here’s a summary of the whole process.)

Inquirer judicial endorsements are at the bottom of this page.



Three dudes want to be the Democratic dude who controls the money. Mandel has been endorsed by the Inky and Daily News, and is the leading challenger against Saidel, the incumbent. The race is tight, and sorta interesting:  Bios.  Latest.

(Note: This was forwarded to one of the nonpretentious contributors by a civic-minded and educated citizen of the City of Brotherly Love.  With permission, nonpretentious posts it here with the request that the author remain anonymous.)

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