Lawsuits Challenging Candidates, Coffee Cans Full of Ballot Positions: Another Wacky Week in Philadelphia Politics

Local Philadelphia politics never lacks drama, particularly when the municipal elections roll around every four years. Nearly 100 people are running for office this year.

What to Know

  • In Philadelphia, candidates for municipal elected positions must obtain signatures to make it on to the ballot.
  • Anyone can challenge these petitions — including fellow candidates. Devon Cade, who is running for a council seat, is challenging 30 others.
  • And then there's the coffee can used to help determine how names will be stacked on the actual ballot come primary day.

For the umpteenth year in a row, candidates seeking elected office in Philadelphia municipal elections pulled their ballot positions for the upcoming May primary out of a coffee can at City Hall on Wednesday.

The coffee can, hopefully sprayed with disinfectant, is the same one that's been used every year to determine the ballot spots. It even has it's own Twitter account ... or two.

A day earlier, numerous legal challenges poured in to the city Board of Elections against many of those local candidates for offices like City Council, sheriff and register of wills.

In a year when nearly 100 people filed petitions to be on the May ballot for those local offices, including 42 candidates for City Council's seven at-large seats, lawsuits were to be expected.

But there are challenges to candidates' petitions — which are the voter signatures a candidate needs to collect to be on a ballot: 750 for Council district seats and 1,000 for citywide offices like mayor and sheriff — and then there are Devon Cade's challenges.

Cade, a Democratic candidate himself for a City Council at-large seat, filed 30 separate challenges against fellow candidates.

Between the lawsuits and the coffee can's once-every-four-years' 15 minutes of fame, it was another wacky week in the world of Philadelphia politics.

Attorney Adam Bonin, an election law veteran, said state law that allows for the "adversarial nature" of candidates or citizens challenging the validity of petition signatures is unusual.

Bonin, who is challenging two Council candidates' petitions this year on behalf of citizens, said other cities in most cases either allow candidates on a ballot simply by paying a filing fee, or utilize a local Board of Elections to review candidates' applications.

As for Cade's mass filing of lawsuits, Bonin said, "Lawyers only have so many words to describe stuff like that. Wackadoodle?"

Cade did not respond to a message seeking comment Wednesday.

After the old Hard & Hardart coffee can was done its work, the ballot order was set. City Commissioner Al Schmidt posted the lists for all the offices, which can be found here. And here:

And here's a full, sortable list of all the candidates in the May 21 primary:

It's Official: Candidates for Mayor, Sheriff, City Council in Philadelphia

Incumbents in nearly every elected position in Philadelphia are facing competition in the upcoming May municipal elections. Notably, Mayor Kenney faces an old foe, and two women are trying to unseat the incumbent sheriff and become the first-ever female sheriff in the city.

Democrat names are in blue and Republicans in red.


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