A Surprising Controllers’s Race– And More Strange White House News

Breaking news, as they call it much too often in Cable news.

As I sat down to write the following, I found out that Kris Kobach of Kansas has been appointed by President Trump to help lead the commission to assure voter integrity. It ‘s just another Trump move that is shockingly transparent in its meaning. Kobach is known around the country as the “king of voter suppression.” Read more about him, and you will be astounded. This caps off a surreal week of apparent madness at the White House.

And there has also been a wave of impeachment stories. Legal experts are saying that the President’s firing of James Comey was an obstruction of justice. I say, not so fast. It’s much too early to be talking impeachment. But it didn’t help that the President said he was thinking about the “fake” Russia-Trump story when he decided to fire Comey.

Anyway…

While most of the attention is paid to the White House these days, this Tuesday, May 16th is the Pennsylvania primary. Let me remind you that if you live in the suburbs, and don’t show up, you are leaving your taxes in the hands of elected school directors, township and borough commissioners. You are also nominating judges who make decisions that can impact you and your families, especially in the area of crime. Don’t complain about crime unless you are at least willing to take part in the electoral process. I’ll be looking at one of those statewide court battles Monday night into Tuesday.

Sadly, this election will have a light turnout, meaning that two vital races can be more than a bit unpredictable. The DA’s race in Philadelphia is interesting but the Controller’s race has turned into the fascinating contest. In both races, the Democrat winners will no doubt win in November because of the crushing voter registration edge.

Alan Butkovitz is seeking his fourth term as City Controller. Butkovitz is a political pro with strong name recognition.  His challenger is Rebecca Rhynhart, who worked as Chief Administrative Officer for Mayor Kenney and city treasurer and budget director for Mayor Nutter.  Her resume’ is impressive, but so is the Controller’s list of dealing, sometimes reluctantly, with entrenched members of his own party.

I talked to both of them separately this week. So, here we go.

Both candidates are pleasant and not shy. These quotes are put together from separate interviews.

Alan stresses his experience. “I’ve done this a long time, and my audits have been hard charging, and some of my fellow Democrats are not happy with me. The Mayors have been friendly, but all of them think I’m a pain in the….. if you know what I mean. Mike Nutter was not happy with me at all.”

Rebecca points to 15 years of financial experience, and says, “ Alan is not a money guy. He’s in the camp of elected Democrats, and is not independent from the establishment. I will be working for the people..”

Alan: Rebecca was Treasurer and Budget director under Nutter. My office exposed the fact that some of his staff had misused the Mayors Fund for personal expenses, over 200-thousand dollars. As City Treasurer where was she when this the Mayor’s Fund was abused. “

( In case you missed it. The Mayor’s Fund was a big issue that Butkovitz attacked in recent months. Mayor Nutter struck back at the former executive director of the fund ( a non-profit) for releasing the information over a year after his term was up, when he didn’t have access to the records.)

Rebecca: “Where was Alan when the Parking Authority was mismanaged and where people cited for poor management were leaving office with big payouts? The last time he audited the Parking Authority was 2009. Does he remember that the Nutter administration has one of the best ethics records ever. (Rynhart was endorsed by Ed Rendell, whose Mayoralty was considered one of the finest ever)

Alan: “On the Parking Authority, The Authority is a state supervised entity. I had many priorities, including the schools, city departments, and line by line audits of city departments. Pennsylvania has an auditor general to audit the Philadelphia Parking Authority, And I did the unthinkable, I took on the practices of one of the most popular sheriff’s in the city’s history, John Green “

Rebecca: “There is never any follow up in the city Controller’s office. It’s more of a scattered audit here or there, with no routine follow up. If elected, I would thoroughly audit the Parking authority, and get money back to the school system. I would also modernize the apparatus of city government, which is not fully computerized. That’s a disgrace. We need to bring our oversight process to the modern era.”

These are a few of the quotes from the two candidates.

What do I think? I don’t endorse candidates, but I think this election is going to be a lot closer than anyone expected. Rynhart has raised a lot of money, and most of her TV ads came late in the decision period. The turnout will be light and both candidates are trading places on sample ballots with some of the DA candidates.

Bottom line: This race has all the elements of a Philly contest: Ward leaders, turnout questions, deals made on sample ballots, the power and downside of being an incumbent. A new face, and a familiar one.

It could be the most interesting to watch on Tuesday night.

Win or lose, Rynhart has received valuable TV exposure that could place her in the forefront of elective politics in the future.