Candidates make their pitch in Bustleton

Congregations of Shaare Shamayim, 9768 Verree Road in Bustleton, on Sunday morning hosted its annual candidates forum.

Among those attending the forum were Democrat Rebecca Rhynhart and Republican Mike Tomlinson, the candidates for city controller.

Congregations of Shaare Shamayim, 9768 Verree Road in Bustleton, on Sunday morning hosted its annual candidates forum.

Among those attending was Beth Grossman, the Republican candidate for district attorney. Grossman worked 21½ years in the district attorney’s office, and credited former District Attorney Lynne Abraham with instilling in her integrity, transparency and ethics. She served in all divisions in the office, including a decade as head of the Public Nuisance Task Force.

“Small things are significant things,” she said.

Grossman said she left the Democratic Party in 2013 because of corruption in the city party and because she believes Philadelphia needs more political balance.

Last year, she announced her candidacy on a platform of “Beth, not Seth.” Since then, Democrat Seth Williams resigned as district attorney after pleading guilty to a federal corruption charge.

Grossman has been endorsed by Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Fraternal Order of Transit Police, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 22 and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Larry Krasner, the Democratic candidate for district attorney, was represented by South Philadelphia lawyer Vern Anastasio, who said the candidate believes there are too many people in jail. He said Krasner, a career civil rights attorney, favors diversionary programs and would save money by not prosecuting death penalty cases. He said Krasner would stand up to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In response to an audience questions, he said he is not aware of a link between Krasner and the radical New Black Panthers. He also said Krasner is not interested in rounding up illegal immigrants.

Also attending the forum were Democrat Rebecca Rhynhart and Republican Mike Tomlinson, the candidates for city controller.

Rhynhart said she earned a “surprise victory” over Alan Butkovitz in the primary, noting the Democratic establishment was with the incumbent. She’s a former city treasurer, budget director and chief administrative officer. She’d be the first woman controller. If elected, she’d modernize the office and look for efficiencies, with savings going to public schools and discouraging tax increases.

“I care deeply about the future of the city,” she said.

Tomlinson, a Holmesburg resident with a background in accounting and financial management, said the controller’s office is dysfunctional.

“We need change,” he said.

Tomlinson said the School District of Philadelphia wastes money and needs to be audited. He worries about the increasingly underfunded pension plan and aging police district buildings. He opposes the beverage tax, and vows to oversee the city’s general budget, finding $400 million in savings.

“I am so passionate,” he said.

Others speaking were Democrats Maria McLaughlin, Carolyn Nichols and Geoff Moulton, Republican Emil Giordano and the Green Party’s Jules Mermelstein, all candidates for four seats on Superior Court; Ellen Ceisler, a Democratic candidate for two seats on Commonwealth Court; Vikki Kristiansson, Deborah Canty and Mark Cohen, who are among nine candidates for nine seats on Common Pleas Court.

City elections commissioner Lisa Deeley was in attendance. She noted the Oct. 31 deadline to apply for an absentee ballot and urged a “No” vote on a proposed constitutional amendment on homestead property tax assessment.

The forum was organized by Paul Kaplan and moderated by Ruth Horwitz.

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Marcel Groen, chairman of the state Democratic Party, is saying complimentary things about Joe Hohenstein, a candidate in the 177th Legislative District primary.

Hohenstein, the Democratic nominee in the district last year, announced his candidacy last week at Independence Mall.

“Throughout Joe Hohenstein’s whole career, he has worked to protect and support the less fortunate. Joe was on the front lines when the Trump administration tried to enforce a Muslim travel ban. I know Joe Hohenstein will fight for those who need it most,” Groen said.

The seat will be open, now that Republican Rep. John Taylor has declined to seek another term.

“Last year, I was an underdog challenging a 32-year incumbent Republican who nobody else had the guts to take on. This year, some have said I would be the favorite to replace Rep. Taylor now that he has retired. I have support from folks within the party, including the state party chair, Mr. Groen, and I have been speaking with a number of Democratic ward leaders in my district. But I will continue running like an underdog, and work for the trust and vote of every resident in the district. I believe campaigns are best when the candidate really listens to the people you plan to represent,” Hohenstein said.

Hohenstein, an immigration lawyer from Northwood, opposes state control of Philadelphia public schools and faults the Philadelphia Parking Authority for inefficiencies.

Last year, he took almost 45 percent of the vote against Taylor.

Democrats Sean Patrick Wayland and Justin Salmasi were planning runs next year even before Taylor’s announcement. Wayland served eight years in the U.S. Army Reserve and spent time in Iraq in 2008.

Others who’ve said they are considering runs are community activist Dan Martino; Tom Forkin, an aide to state Rep. Mike Driscoll; Harry Enggasser, a ward leader, aide to U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, two-time challenger to Taylor and president of the Bridesburg Civic Association; and Patty-Pat Kozlowski, director of park stewardship at the city Department of Parks and Recreation and a former top aide to late Councilwoman Joan Krajewski.

Other Democrats mentioned include Sean K. McMonagle, an aide to Councilman Mark Squilla; former Councilman Dan Savage; union plasterer Sean Kilkenny; and Maggie Borski, daughter of former congressman Bob Borski.

Possible Republican candidates are Kozlowski; Chris Vogler, Republican leader of the 55th Ward; Brian Caputo, a former aide to Councilman Brian O’Neill; and Tim O’Brien, a former Municipal Court arraignment magistrate.

Taylor aide Mia Hylan, who lives just outside the district, must move into the 177th to be able to run.

The 177th district consists generally of Bridesburg, Northwood and parts of Port Richmond, Tacony, West Mayfair, Holmesburg and Lexington Park.

••

Laura Ellsworth last week announced her candidacy for the Republican nomination for governor.

“During my career in the private sector, I’ve been a solutions-oriented leader, creating diverse coalitions to tackle major problems. That’s exactly the approach I’ll bring to Harrisburg,” she said. “As governor, my №1 priority will be to create good-paying jobs right here in the commonwealth. Pennsylvania has the opportunity to be an economic powerhouse if only our elected officials focused on solutions, not on their next elected office.”

Ellsworth was the partner in charge of global community service initiatives at the international law firm Jones Day. She serves on the board and executive committee of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, is chairwoman of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce and the Youth Policy Council, vice chair of the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board and past chairwoman of the United Way Women’s Leadership Council.

Other GOP candidates for governor are state Sen. Scott Wagner and Allegheny County businessman Paul Mango.

Ellsworth and her husband, Bruce, live outside Pittsburgh and have been married for nearly 25 years. They have a 20-year-old son, Matthew, a college student. ••