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Jewish Take on Elections

May 19, 2011 By:
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Stephanie Singer

Philadelphians hoping for a Jewish mayor or member of City Council are pretty much out of luck, given the results of Tuesday's primary election.

Republican John Featherman, who is Jewish, is locked in a standoff with Karen Brown, the choice of the GOP establishment. Fewer than 60 votes separate the two and not all the votes have been tallied. The winner should be determined in the next week or so.

However, once the GOP contest is resolved, the Republican candidate is all-but guaranteed to lose to Mayor Michael Nutter in November. The incumbent resoundingly won his own Democratic primary.

Four years ago, Nutter -- who has enjoyed widespread Jewish support -- took nearly 80 percent of the general election vote.

A number of Democratic candidates for Philadelphia City Council sought to become the first Jewish member of that body since longtime member David Cohen died in 2005. None were successful.

Among them were developer Howard Treatman, the former president of the Germantown Jewish Centre who spent $250,000 of his own funds on a race to represent the eighth district, which includes parts of Northwest Philadelphia. He finished in fourth place, earning fewer than 3,000 votes.

Sherrie Cohen, David Cohen's daughter, came close to getting on the Democratic slate for an at-large seat, but fell short. There's a total of seven at-large seats being decided, with five going to the majority party -- in this case, the Democrats -- and two going to the minority party.

On the Republican side, two Jewish candidates, Michael Untermeyer and Malcolm Lazin, were involved in a neck-and-neck race for the GOP's final spot on its slate of five candidates vying for two at-large seats. But by late Wednesday, Untermeyer held a lead of more than 200 votes and Lazin had all but conceded the race, www.philly.com reported.

Whoever wins, one Jewish candidate will have a shot at getting on the council come November. But the odds are highly unlikely, since only two of the five Republican candidates can win a seat. And the winner will have to go up against some well-known names like Dennis O'Brien, former speaker of the Pennsylvania House.

But one Jewish candidate in Philadelphia did earn a clear-cut victory on Primary Day. Stephanie Singer, a Democratic ward leader and math professor, was the top vote getter in the race for the three city commissioner slots. The results ousted Marge Tartaglione, who has held one of those posts since 1976.

Singer has promised to reform the elections process in the city and make voter data more transparent.

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