Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Phila NOW set up a PAC several years ago with the goal of electing strong feminists to local offices. Many of the candidates we’ve supported who are not tied into the local Democratic Party have had a tough time gaining support.

Phila NOW has been part of a coalition to try to open up the process. Not only do progressives not allied with party operatives have difficulty getting support, the Party will sometimes tacitly support local Republicans rather than progressive Democrats.

There has been some discussion on http://www.youngphillypolitics.com about local Democratic Party’s refusal to seriously challenge Republican legislators. I contributed an account of Democrats lack of support for one of our own, Tammy Gavitt:


Perzel is not the only Republican tacitly supported by the local Democratic party. Phila NOW member Tammy Gavitt planned to run against John Taylor. She was concerned about the deterioration of her neighborhood, the lack of services to people in her district, the unresponsiveness of politicians.

Tammy started doing all the right things—going door to door, raising money early in the game. Also, she had lived in the district a long time and was born in the adjacent district in Fishtown. She had deep roots in the community which counts for a lot in Philly politics. Finally, the district is majority Democratic and demographics are changing, so Tammy thought unseating Taylor was doable.

Tammy was relatively new to electoral politics, but had a long history as an activist. She had become a committeeperson and worked hard to get out the vote and provide constituent services. This is what Councilman Kenney advised today—get involved in party politics, “don't approach the politics as inherently evil.”

However, her work as a committeeperson didn’t count for much. When she declared her intention to enter the race, she was very surprised by the lack of support from the Democratic Party operatives in her district. In the course of working on her campaign, I was told by a local ward leader, that in that district, “they don’t really think about whether somebody is a Democrat or Republican. What counts is where you went to high school, who your buddies are, who your relatives are.” Tammy was clearly out of the loop.

See Oct.3 Inquirer article, “Family tradition a key to city office” at http://www.philly.com

Also, Tammy was taken aback that a local labor union she had worked with organizing demonstrations against Wal-mart also seemed happy with Taylor and not interested in supporting her. Taylor had voted their way on a few key issues but Democratic control of the house would do far more to advance the agenda of organized labor (and the interests of the people organized labor represents) than a few crumbs from Taylor.

Tammy had a lot to offer (young, progressive, committed) but she wasn’t from a political family, wasn’t part of the byzantine world of local Democratic politics. She didn’t have a lot of personal money or wealthy contributors and therefore could not quit her job to run for office. The local reform network was in its very early stages, so there wasn’t a network to substitute for the Democratic party structure.
She decided it wasn’t fair to her supporters to continue a campaign which looked hopeless, so she decided to close the campaign and returned the money to her contributors (I wonder how many candidates have done that.)

One of you young progressives out there should consider taking on John Taylor. How are the Democrats ever going to take back the house when the Democratic Party allows majority Democratic districts to be represented by Republicans?????

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