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Driscoll seeks Council presidency

Councilman Mike Driscoll

City Councilman Mike Driscoll is throwing his hat in the ring for Council presidency.

Council President Darrell Clarke is retiring, and three potential successors have been prominently mentioned: Councilmen Curtis Jones, Kenyatta Johnson and Mark Squilla.

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Driscoll, though, said none of those candidates is anywhere near the required number of votes to become Council’s next president.

“We’re launching this candidacy to see where we are,” he said.

Each of the 17 Council members gets a vote, meaning any candidate who reaches nine commitments clinches the top job.

Driscoll, Jones, Johnson and Squilla are all unopposed in the Nov. 7 election. Four other Democratic district council members are unopposed, with Councilwoman Jamie Gauthier facing a challenge from an independent candidate. The five Democratic at-large nominees are shoo-ins to win in November.

That leaves three seats up for grabs. Republican Councilman Brian O’Neill faces Gary Masino, while two Republicans and two Working Families Party candidates are squaring off for the last two at-large seats.

Driscoll said he plans to reach out to colleagues after Labor Day. Council returns to session on Sept. 14.

Driscoll said his background lends itself to being an effective Council president. He has executive branch experience while working for seven years under Gov. Bob Casey as deputy secretary of the state Department of General Services.

In addition, he spent 17 years working in business. He was a state representative for eight years and was elected to Council last year.

The next Council president will work closely with the next mayor.

Democrat Cherelle Parker would be the first woman mayor. Driscoll served with her in the state House and for a short time in Council, and endorsed her in the primary.

Republican David Oh would be the first Asian-American mayor and the first GOP mayor since 1951. Driscoll served with him in Council.

Driscoll said the Council president should be “independent of the executive branch,” but that a close relationship – such as the one between Mayor Ed Rendell and Council President John Street – can be good for the city. He sees the president as Council’s “informal liaison to the mayor.”

Driscoll credits Clarke as being a consensus builder who hashed out differences behind the scenes.

If he becomes president, he promises to be fair and respectful of members’ wishes and priorities.

The specifics of the job, he said, are setting the legislative agenda and analyzing the mayor’s budget.

If elected, Driscoll – who lives in East Torresdale – would be the first Council president from the Northeast. ••

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