Northeast Philly’s Mike Driscoll says he, too, wants to be City Council president [The Philadelphia Inquirer]

(Originally posted by the Philadelphia Inquirer Aug. 17)

The race for Philadelphia City Council president is getting crowded.

Councilmember Michael J. Driscoll, who represents parts of the Riverwards and Northeast Philadelphia, announced this week that he is seeking the chamber’s top job, becoming the fifth member to express interest. The news was first reported Wednesday by the Northeast Times.

“I want a healthy discussion about where we’re headed as a new Council,” Driscoll told The Inquirer. “And, quite frankly, I’m from Northeast Philadelphia, I was born and raised there, and we’ve never had a Council president. I want Northeast Philly on the map.”

It’s unclear how — or if — Driscoll’s entrance could scramble the math for the other candidates leading in the race for the Council presidency, which will become vacant in January when current Council President Darrell L. Clarke leaves office.

The Council president — who wields enormous power over legislation and policy in the city — is selected by a simple majority of the 17-member body and is all but certain to be a Democrat.

Who is in the running for City Council president?

Much of the campaigning thus far has happened behind closed doors. Council members Kenyatta Johnson, Curtis Jones Jr., and Mark Squilla are among the most senior members of Council and are seen as the top contenders.

Councilmember Cindy Bass has also expressed an interest in the post, and other members have whispered that they’re generally interested in leadership.

Sources say none have notched enough commitments from their colleagues to run away with the Council presidency, which requires nine votes.

That means this fall is likely to feature plenty of wheeling and dealing among members, some of whom will seek other leadership roles or favorable committee assignments from Council president candidates in exchange for their vote.

The November election could also decide the fate of the Council presidency. Two Republicans and two members of the progressive Working Families Party are vying for a pair of at-large seats that are reserved for members outside the dominant party, which for decades has been Democrats. And longtime Republican Councilmember Brian O’Neill is defending his Northeast Philadelphia seat from Democratic challenger Gary Masino, a labor leader.

Jones, the Democratic majority leader from Northwest Philly’s 4th District, and Johnson, who represents South and Southwest Philadelphia’s 2nd District, have each been in Council for more than a decade and are most aggressively campaigning for the presidency.

Squilla, who is seen as something of a consensus candidate, has also been in Council since 2012 and represents South Philadelphia’s 1st District.

Who is Mike Driscoll?

Driscoll has been in Council for only a year. He took control of the city’s 6th District in June 2022 after winning a special election with no challenger on the ballot. The seat had been held by Democratic Councilmember Bobby Henon, who resigned following a conviction on federal bribery charges.

But Driscoll said while he’s new to Council, he has decades of experience in government. He served in former Gov. Bob Casey Sr.’s administration and represented parts of Northeast Philadelphia in the state House from 2014 until his election to Council last year.

He said that he “completely respects and admires” the other members who are running for Council president and that he is vying for the role because he sees himself as a consensus builder.

“Philadelphia is a diverse city, and we need leadership that understands and appreciates and celebrates diversity,” he said. “I’d bring that level of belief in my leadership abilities, that I could understand and appreciate where others are coming from.”

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