First District: Potent field eager to fill DiCicco’s shoes

If Philadelphia politics are a soap opera, the battle to replace 1st District City Councilman Frank DiCicco could be described like this:

Jeff Hornstein and Joe Grace don’t like one another to the point of bickering over whether there’s wind on the Delaware River. They agree Mark Squilla is an all-around decent guy with whom each thinks they’re in direct competition to win.

Vern Anastasio claims he likes Mark too, but Jeff and Joe don’t believe it. Neither does Mark, who just this week sent voters a letter saying, “Even kids know it’s wrong to cheat” — which implied that Vern, who lost to DiCicco four years ago, doesn’t.

Between now and Tuesday, they’ll urge undecided voters in the city’s fastest-growing district from Oregon Avenue through Queen Village, Old City, the river wards and up to Bridge Street to take their side.

“I need everyone to come out and vote,” Anastasio said at a South Street Starbucks yesterday, “but regardless of what happens, we all need to come together afterwards to help build a better district.”

Tough questions

What makes you think you can win a race you lost before?

Anastasio: “Running last time let me meet many people and better understand their issues; I hired the best campaign team in politics; and I don’t have to run against someone with a 78 percent approval rating.”

How can you recover from an early focus on outgoing incumbent Frank DiCicco’s DROP enrollment?

Grace: “[DiCicco dropping out] opened the race up. He was an incumbent, and it’s difficult to beat an incumbent. I feel like it’s anybody’s ball game now. It helps that I’m independent and experienced.”

How do you overcome any anti-union, “anti-smartypants” sentiment among voters?

Hornstein: “I’ve organized janitors for 10-plus years so I understand how to talk to people about jobs. Besides someone slamming a door in my wife’s face saying ‘I don’t like unions,’ neither has been terribly problematic.”

How do you overcome impressions that you’re the “machine” candidate?

Squilla: “I explain my positions and that I have support from people who don’t particularly like each other. You have to work with a wide array of people if you want to get things done for your community.”

Top goals

Failure to accomplish what goal in their first term would be most disconcerting?

Anastasio: “Immediately set the tone by eliminating DROP to save the city $35 million a year. It should be everybody’s top priority.”

Grace: Ethics reform. “Barring outside employment for Council people, any nepotism in hiring practices, working year-round, term limits.”

Hornstein: “The lack of comprehensive tax reform. One major Delaware River waterfront project completed; turning Piers 38 and 40 into a Reading Terminal Market type attraction.”

Squilla: Ethics reform. “Pass a 10-percent cut in council salaries, eliminate city vehicles if possible, shorter council recesses, term limits.”

For more local news throughout the day follow Brian Hickey on Twitter @MetroBHickey.

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