Adults only? What are those ward leaders doing?

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Let me introduce you to Philadelphia’s Democratic City Committee Chairman Bob Brady (pictured). Brady’s day job is honorable representative of the First Congressional District of Pennsylvania, a area that includes a lot of south, west, and southwest Philadelphia and parts of Delaware County just over the border.

As party chair, it is Brady’s job to gather the Democratic leaders of each of Philadelphia’s 69 wards1 and preside over them as they decide which candidate in a given election they will throw their collective weight behind.

Today this esteemed group of Philadelphians (which count City Council members, state representatives and other elected or high level political officials among themselves) met to figure out which of the two remaining candidates for the Democratic nomination for President would get their support in the form of “an official endorsement.”

Why is this important? Good question.

During a general election having the entire party apparatus behind a Democratic candidate is a great help in turning out the vote in Philadelphia where 8 out of every 10 voters are registered Democrats and traditionally vote for overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates (unlike in Southwestern PA where most people are registered Dems but have been known to vote Republican – the so called “Reagan Democrats”).

During a primary, especially such a high-profile one as this Presidential primary certainly is, most of Philadelphia’s registered Democrats have to choose between two or more Democrats. When faced with such a choice and given the huge amounts of information that they’ll get through the media and campaign advertisements, the backing of the ward leaders means a lot less.

In fact, in the last high-profile primary election – the Philadelphia mayor’s race – Congressman Brady had the backing of the ward leaders and got trounced by current mayor (and former ward leader) Michael Nutter.

It’s not even clear that either Obama or Clinton will come away with the backing of the entire Philadelphia Democratic City Committee. Several of the higher profile ward leaders have already publicly backed Obama while others have thrown their support to Clinton. Clinton also has the very public backing of Mayor Nutter and Governor Rendell.

So what of the “adults only” comment? In this story by WHYY’s Susan Phillips, Congressman Brady gave a preview of what to expect in the room with the 69 ward leaders:

It’s a tough meeting. It’s Philadelphia and politics is for adults. Only adults need apply.

To be fair, if you listen to the story you realize that Brady was saying this with a trace of his characteristic wit and charm and it’s more a statement about the actual folks in the room and how heated such meetings can get than a statement about politics in Philly.

But the question is: how long will it be before some of the younger generation start to get included in these meetings? As a young voter, would you even be interested in seeing what happens when 69 men and women, many of them well into their 50s and 60s, get together in a formerly-smoke-filled room to hash out decisions like this?

1For voting and election purposes Philadelphia is divided up into 69 wards. Each ward is further divided into several much smaller “divisions” that cover a 4-5 city blocks and have 600-800 voters each. When you register to vote, depending on your address, you will be assigned a Ward and Division. You can elect your division’s two leaders who are known as “committee people.” All of the committee people in the ward get together to elect the ward leader.

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One Response to “Adults only? What are those ward leaders doing?”

  1. Philly news “scooped” as LA Times reports that Obama not playing the “street money” game « Y-Decide 2008 Says:

    […] explained before what a ward is and who the ward leaders are.  Those folks make a decision about which candidate they want to support.  That decision can be […]

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