Our political issue this year in Philadelphia is the city controller’s race. The incumbent is most likely the most boring man in political history, Alan Butkovitz …
His main challenger is a smooth-talking “progressive” named Brett Mandel. Problem is, he’s really not a progressive, since the progressive organizations want no part of him. Progressive political groups Philly For Change, Progressive Democratic Caucus and Philadelphia Neighborhood Networks did not endorse him. He also lost the endorsement in the wards in Chestnut Hill — a liberal bastion — and the 30th Ward, a gentrified LGBT neighborhood. Butkovitz has the support of the Democratic City Committee. Thus far, of the 69 wards in the city, Mandel has a total of one.
This is a rematch. Four years ago, Mandel came in third place. So, how is this an LGBT issue? And was it a miscalculation of Mandel’s supporters to make LGBT an issue, since the candidate’s record is not so good?
It should be noted that Philadelphia’s Liberty City Democratic Club, an LGBT organization, did endorse him — but that came at a cost, as the debate at Liberty City’s meeting started an examination of Mandel’s tactics. Even more embarrassing, the morning after Liberty City made its endorsement, the Philadelphia Daily News ran a story about Mandel going from city office to city office demanding a job. And despite that his main campaign issue has been the Sheriff’s Office and patronage in city employment, he had to admit to the Daily News that he asked the sheriff for a $150,000-per-year job (more than the sheriff makes). Then he tried the controller’s office.
But we’ll leave the smoke-filled back rooms to Mandel and Butkovitz. For this column, let’s look at issue one: muscling out the LGBT candidate. Like four years ago, when Mandel came in third place, this year there were several candidates in the running, including Butkovitz, Mandel, Mark Zecca and Michael Williams. If you’re a progressive candidate, you should feel you can win the election on merits. Otherwise, you toss mud. And the Mandel campaign and/or its supporters did just that to Williams — an out lawyer who has served the city in public life for more than 20 years. When Mandel’s people weren’t tossing mud to get Williams out of the race, they labeled him a spoiler. The gay African-American attorney with 20-years’ experience is a spoiler? Against the third-rate candidate of four years ago?
But here’s the real lowdown: When Williams tried to rent a room at the William Way LGBT Community Center — our community’s home — a supporter and close friend of Mandel called the center’s executive director and threatened that he’d call the IRS and request an audit, claiming the center was getting involved in politics.
Renting a room is not politics, and trying to stir up trouble that way is sleazy. It was brought up at Liberty City, and no one from the Mandel campaign has apologized.
Mandel owes this community an apology for attempting to put our community center in the crosshairs.
Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.