The Scorecard™

A service of A Smoke-Filled Room. Tracking the current big dogs in regional politics.


The Famous
  • John Street, Mayor, former City Council President (D): a bit of a wildcat back in his more obscure days as a community activist and then as a City Council member and President, Street has continued to focus on "the neighborhoods" of Philadelphia as Mayor (after winning a narrow election against perrenial opponent Sam Katz). See a general profile of Street's career here.
    1. his first move after taking office was to commit to clearing the streets of abandoned cars, to the tune of 1,000 per day for 40 days
    2. pioneered Operation Safe Streets, a method of reducing the city's drug trade and improving community safety
    3. is working on a major anti-blight initiative for the city
    4. pushed for a Philadelphia smoking ban in 2005 (then nearly didn't sign it in 2006)

  • Anna Verna, City Council President: the first woman to be City Council President in Philadelphia's history. A onetime Street protege, but now sometime rival, especially on the specifics of his anti-blight initiatives. Her perceived weakness may have been behind the decision of City Council to change its rules, decreasing the President's powers and job security. (But nobody would explain their motives when the vote was taken!)

  • Michael Nutter, recently a City Councilman: quit in 2006 to run for mayor in 2007. Behind some high-profile recent bills, including anti-smoking and ethics measures. However, his failure to save the Gerard trolley is considered a caving to local Ward politics.

  • Vince Fumo: in state office (see PA entries) but a fixture in his Philadelphia district and its politics. His king-making powers include City Council candidates, Mayoral hopefuls, and everybody else...

  • John Dougherty: described as "the Hatfield to Vince Fumo's McCoy," he's a powerful union head (Electricians: IBEW Local 98) who throws around a lot of political weight and may have bigger ambitions (a "Draft Doc" campaign is attempting to launch him for Mayor). Appointed to the Delaware River Port Authority by Rendell in 2004.
The Infamous
  • Frank Rizzo, former Police Chief and then Mayor:
    1. fought the integration of the city police force (by either minorities or women)
    2. kept a hand in the police department even as Mayor, including the 1970s corruption scandal immortalized in The Thin Blue Line
    3. undertook surveilance of his predecessors and political opponents
    4. linked to the notorious Mumia Abu-Jamal case (having sworn that the new breed of journalism would lead to somebody's "being held accountable"...)

  • Lynne Abraham, Phila District Attorney (D): a conservative Dem who has angered many by her "passionate" support for the death penalty, for a tendency to racially divisive moves (e.g., punishing only the black students in a multiracial highschool fight), and for using Mumia's case as a tool in her last reelection bid. See a lengthy CityPaper profile here.
    1. called "America's deadliest D.A." (originally in the NYTimes Sunday magazine, 1995)
    2. was behind the controversial extradition/trial of Ira Einhorn

  • John Street, Mayor: found himself under FBI surveillence mere weeks before his reelection day, and many of his aides were prosecuted in the subsequent pay-to-play fall-out. Time Magazine added insult to this injury by voting him one of the three worst Mayors in the country for the year, largely because of this cloud of scandal haunting his second term.
The Legacies
One of the things that makes Philly feel like a much smaller town is its wealth of powerful families, who wield their influence both overtly and covertly. A fascinating historical feel for some of these "Pennsylvania Brand Names" can be obtained here. Some of the notable ones:
  • Bob Casey
    • Sr. = state senator, then Auditor General, then governor (1987-1995); see his profile here.
      1. conservative Democrat; prevented from speaking at the 1992 Democratic convention because he wouldn't endorse Clinton-Gore (sometimes misattributed to his prolife views)
      2. recipient of a 1993 heart/lung transplant amidst controversy that he "skipped the line"
    • Jr. = a "chip off the old Bob" in more ways than one.
      1. conservative Democrat; anti-abortion and pro-gun
      2. was Auditor General, then (2005-6) State Treasurer, and ran against Rendell in the 2002 gubanatorial primary; was presumed to want a shot at the open governor's seat in 2010, until he decided to run against Rick Santorum for the US Senate instead (2006)
      3. now the junior US Senator from Pennsylvania.

  • Frank Rizzo
    • Sr. = onetime city Police Chief who then became its legendary Mayor.
      1. nominated for mayor at least once by each party
      2. credited with "keeping the lid on" Philadelphia during the nationwide riots in the summer of 1967
      3. see "Infamous" entry above for racial polarization and police corruption issues during his tenure
      4. memorialized in a mural in the Italian Market area as well as in a well-regarded biography Rizzo: The Last Big Man in Big City America
    • Jr. = current City Council at-large member (R), formerly with PECO. His official bio is summarized here. Often mentioned as a possible Republican contender for Philadelphia mayor.

  • Wilson Goode
    • Sr. = Philadelphia's first black mayor, 1984-1992; see online bio here.
      1. was able to raise the height regulations for buildings in downtown Philly, long restricted to the "soles of William Penn's feet" atop City Hall
      2. behind the controversial (and tragic) choice to bomb the MOVE compound in West Philadelphia, resulting in the leveling of an entire city block -- see a look back on the incident here (and historical coverage also available here.
    • Jr. = current City Council at-large member (D?); formerly a member of the city commerce department under Mayor Ed Rendell. His official (brief) bio is here.

City Hall Info:

  • Don't know who your City Council representative is? Find out using this map.
  • Don't know what Ward you're in, or who its leader is? Check here.
  • Some voting record(s) and other info here.


The Famous
  • Arlen Specter, US Senator (R): a longtime Senate fixture, but currently an endangered Moderate Republican.
    1. warns President not to bring anti-abortion judges up for confirmation
    2. targeted by his own party for removal (as too moderate)

  • Ed Rendell, PA Governor, former Philly Mayor (D): a powerhouse at Mayor, he balanced the tattered budget and revitalized the downtown. Only two years into Governorhood, but has continued to be active, taking on unfair property taxes and the bugaboo of car insurance rates.
    1. Municipal Leader of the Year, 1996
    2. launched a review of the region's insurance rates that will result in substantial cuts

  • Vince Fumo, PA Senator (D): his power cannot be assessed by his office or even by his CV; he's the kind of power-broker whose significance can be measured by the huge credibility attributed to an occasion or cause by the mere mention that he showed up. Specific instances will be added as I become aware of them.

  • Robert Brady, US Representative, 1st District (D): Senior Whip, has union roots. Also chair of the Philadelphia Democratic Party. Like Fumo, his power far exceeds any particular office description; he's involved in major negotiations, nominations, and feud settlements all the time. He is probably more interested in eastern PA than in anything going on in DC (to judge by a local Philadelphia Magazine write-up).
    1. brokered an agreement between SEPTA and the transit union in 1998
    2. considered a "decisive factor" in Mayor Street's election
    3. negotiated use of the Port of Philadelphia for military business
    Brady's strength as a deal-maker may be undermined by his decision to join the primary race for mayor in 2007.

  • Allyson Schwartz, US Representative, 13th District (D), former PA state Senator:
    1. probably best known for work creating Pennsylvania's Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
    2. for a general bio, see here

  • Chaka Fattah, US Representative, 2nd District (D): Gets a lot of discussion for power-brokering in the Philadelphia area, and has been making waves about his interest in becoming the Mayor. Meantime, still a bit of a cipher to me, except for his heated relationship with NAACP president J. Whyatt Mondesire and his vocal support for programs for low-income students. Has also added his hat to the ring for Philadelphia mayor in 2007.

The Infamous
  • Rick Santorum, US Senator (R): Republican up-and-comer, and point-man for the right's attacks on gay rights, among other causes.
    1. most notorious for his suggestion that legalizing gay marriage would lead to "man-on-dog sex"
    2. promoter of Intelligent Design, he tried to get it worked into No Child Left Behind legislation
    3. compared Senate Democrats to Hitler, shortly after taking a colleague to task for a Nazi reference (in the filibuster debate)
    4. disparages the notion of women working outside the home (just greedy on their part, etc.)
    Defeated by Bob Casey in 2006; made a quick hop to a DC think tank on terrorist threats.

  • Arlen Specter, US Senator (R):
    1. the man behind the Warren Commission's "lone gunman" theory
    2. the face of the Senate's disbelief in Anita Hill's charges against Clarence Thomas

  • Pat Toomey (R): former US Congressman, he gave up his seat to go after Arlen Specter from the right (in the 2004 Republican primary). A pro-life zealot and more conservative than most conservatives on fiscal issues. Right now he's working for the economic kingmaking organization The Club for Growth, which may or may not keep him out of politics...

  • Vince Fumo, PA Senator (D): See the above for general fearsomeness.
    1. most notorious recent gaffe: calling his opponents "faggots" during a debate
    2. target of a multipart exposee concerning legal but bad-smelling banking connections et al.

Legislator info:

  • Don't know who your US Congressional Rep is?
    Enter your address here to find out.
  • Don't know who your state senator/representative is?
    Enter your address here to find out.
  • Check out the voting records of both US Senators and US Congressfolk here or here.

last updated 1/25/07