By Kenneth Lipp
We’ve been covering the 7th District City Council race with the Spirit Newspapers, and it’s a circus of hurt feelings. This afternoon, ever-so cloak-and-dagger, a man in his early thirties walked into the Spirit’s office in Fishtown and handed editor Max Pulcini a manila envelope with what turned out to be the wrong address written on it. Before Max could notice this and turn back to tell him, the man was gone. Upon inspection it turned out the package was indeed for us, and was directed at our coverage.
We’ll cover anything important in the envelope, and the full report on this story will be in the Spirit Wednesday morning. The fact that it was dropped off by some anonymous stranger who could not even give his name, like a man serving a subpoena, instead of by whomever paid to have these “dossiers” on the Councilwoman and her husband prepared by a political research firm, points to the history of squabbling between political rivals from the neighborhood-level to the State House that gives the people of the 7th their choices in candidates. The whole thing certainly does make us a little queasy. Watch the video for a full explainer, and do stay tuned.
(you can also read a transcript of the video, text below)
I'm Kenneth Lipp, co-editor of the Declaration, here with a quick update on our election coverage with The Spirit Newspapers. We have some breaking quasi-intrigue regarding our reporting on the City Council primary: this afternoon a man walked into the Spirit's office in Fishtown with a manilla envelop, handing it to the editor and telling it was for him. Before Max could look up from envelope to tell him he had the wrong place, not the Spirit's address written on it, the man had walked out the door and out of sight. It was open, and Max looked inside and discovered it was indeed for us. First, let me bring you up to speed on the last two weeks of this campaign.
7th District City Council candidate Manny Morales gave a press conference last week in which he accused Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez of election fraud, announcing they had brought evidence of the allegation to the District Attorney's Office for investigation.
The evidence was three signatures on Quinones-Sanchez's ballot petitions: a Carmen Gonzales, Carol Brown, and Felix Aguirre Jr, and the Morales campaign said all three were dead.
One of them is indeed deceased, Carol, actually Carolyn, Brown. But the other two when interviewed promised they were alive when they signed the petition, Ms. Brown apparently passed the day of the press conference (that's probably too late for Morales to know), and Carmen Gonzales' signature was actually obtained by Morales' campaign manager as well, which means its invalid anyway, because even living people cannot sign two primary petitions in Pennsylvania.
Now, the actual reason for the press conference was for Morales to announce that he was staying in the race, and to say he was ASKING the Democratic Party to rescind his endorsement, as opposed to bowing out gracefully at the strong suggestion of party boss US Rep. Bob Brady, which is more likely the truth.
And the reason Morales needed a press conference to announce he was totally voluntarily ASKING the party to take away his endorsement is that he had to, because nobody believes that four years of offensive Facebook posts, which Councilwoman Quinones-Sanchez gathered or had gathered and posted to MeetMannyMorales.com and seem to be from Morales page were from hacking or photoshopped or made by someone picking up his device sometime in 2012 when he left it unattended at a CPAC keynote.
No one believes him because the posts he denies seem like they're written by the same person as all of the posts that were on his Facebook page before he shut down his account much too late for it to make any difference, and his campaign keeps saying they've deleted emails and are working with an investigator in Camden instead of just reporting access to Facebook and to law enforcement and making a show of it.
The reason the Democratic Party ended up endorsing a candidate who was sunk so easily out of dry-dock is that the race for the 7th District is really about a larger and nastier and older squabble between members of local political dynasties, challengers to party monopoly on power, and general party dysfunction.
There's probably no telling how far back civil blood made civil hands unclean, but at least as far back as 1998.
That's when Morales' patron, Representative Angel Cruz of the 180th legislative district, won his seat in the state house. Three years later he was tried in state court for bribing officials to help him win that election, along with 5 other people. Cruz got off with a deadlocked jury, along with a man named Carlos Matos, the four others were convicted.
Matos was convicted a few years later for bribing 3 Atlantic City pols, became a ward leader again right after he got out of prison, and again after he got off of probation, after his probation judge made him step down out of fear he'd influence elections.
Matos also made news last year over a lawsuit and related FBI raid of the Juniata Park medical clinic he claims not to have been running with Sandy Acosta, who is the mother of another state legislator and Morales booster, 197th District Representative Leslie Acosta. Matos also supported Quinones-Sanchez in two prior wins, but he, 33rd Ward leader Donna Aument, and Rep. Cruz, who says he put Quinones-Sanchez in office, all have backed Morales this year, and say they still do. They say the incumbent betrayed them and their constituents, but it mostly seems to be because the Councilwoman backs her own candidates against party picks. Last year she ran a slate including staffer Quetzy Lozada against Rep Cruz, and her husband against State Senator Christine Tartaglione, whose sister is Renee Tartaglione Matos, wife of Carlos Matos and an operator of the clinic he denies running (both daughters Margaret Tartaglione, who ran the City Commissioner's Office from 1975 to 2011).
So now we have a basically one party system where that party hasn't endorsed any candidate at all, the Ward leaders still say they support Morales, and this will make a good experiment in which really matters – the backing of the neighborhood political bosses or the Democratic nod.
As for this envelop and its contents, an initial examination of the documents and a quick look into the firm that prepared it, it is intended to be ready-made hit piece on the Councilwoman. We'll be vetting it, deciding if anything is newsworthy for publication on Wednesday morning in The Spirit. Do stay tuned.