PHILADELPHIA—It is hard to believe that a race for the obscure office of city commissioner in Philadelphia next week could have an impact on Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes in the presidential race next year.
But that’s what pundits and pols in the Keystone State told HUMAN EVENTS last week. Philadelphians prepare to go to the polls in city elections Nov. 8. With Democratic Mayor Michael Nutter coasting to reelection, two Republicans are going to win election as city council members at large because city law guarantees minority party representation among the five at-large council seats. (There are 12 other council seats by district, with only one held by a Republican. The city GOP is contesting two of the Democratic council members.)
Those races are increasingly overshadowed by the contest for the three seats on the city commission, which oversees administration of elections in Philadelphia. Each major party has nominated two candidates, meaning that the two Democrats will win, and one of the two Republicans will get the remaining seat. Here is the real contest: Incumbent Joe Duda, an ally of the moribund Philadelphia Republican organization, is competing for that seat against Al Schmidt, a former federal auditor and one of the leaders of the insurgent movement wanting to take over the city GOP and make it a political force.
But there’s more to this than factional warfare. Earlier this year, the Republican-controlled state house of representatives passed a bill requiring voters to present identification before casting their ballots. The state senate, also in GOP hands, is expected to pass the same measure soon, and Republican Gov. Tom Corbett is certain to sign it.
Republican sources in and outside Philadelphia who spoke to HUMAN EVENTS without exception agree with city GOP ward leader Matthew Wolfe that “with voter ID, enforced to the fullest extent of the law in Philadelphia, Barack Obama would not come near the 470,000-vote win he got in the city in ’08 that was so key to his carrying Pennsylvania.”
The same GOP leaders in and outside Philadelphia agreed that Schmidt would be the likeliest commissioner to fight for enforcement of voter ID. In contrast, there were widespread doubts about the same enforcement by Duda, a close ally of the city GOP headed by Chairman Vito Canuso and party counsel Mike Meehan. Party insurgents have long sought the ouster of the Canuso-Meehan organization because, they charge, it goes along rather than fights Nutter and the Democratic hierarchy.
“Given his long history of looking the other way when election malfeasance rears its ugly head, voters should have little confidence in Duda enforcing voter ID laws with any vigor whatsoever,” 22nd Ward Leader Kevin Kelly told us. “Al Schmidt is the only answer to runaway election fraud in Philadelphia.”
Outside the city, other Republicans are quietly rooting for a Schmidt win. Lancaster County GOP Chairman Ethan Demme told HUMAN EVENTS, “If the voter ID law passes and someone truly enforces it in Philadelphia, our big Republican turnout here won’t be needed to make up for all the dead people counted as voters in Philly.”