Testimony in Support of Bill No. 130701 (Oh)

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Nathan R. Shrader
Testimony in Support of Bill No. 130701 (Oh)
Committee on Law and Government Hearing
Friday, November 22, 2013

 

It is an honor to present this testimony on behalf of Councilman Oh’s common sense proposal to modernize the city’s illogical “resign to run” law, Bill No. 130701. I apologize that I am unable to make this statement in person and I thank Councilman Oh and the Committee for allowing my testimony to be submitted via email.

My name is Nathan Shrader and I am a resident of the 31st Ward. I have spent a significant portion of my life working in government and politics. Since volunteering for my first political campaign at the age of 14, I have been a volunteer, consultant, field director, organizer, coordinator, and staffer for a dozen political campaigns at the local, state, and federal level in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Virginia. I have also been afforded the opportunity to traverse this great Commonwealth, visiting 55 of 67 counties while working on late Catherine Baker Knoll’s 2000 campaign for State Treasurer, her 2002 race for Lieutenant Governor, and while serving as her Legislative Aide and Deputy Director of Communications in the Office of the Lieutenant Governor. I also spent three years as a Legislative Aide in the Virginia House of Delegates, served as legislative intern for Senator Arlen Specter while in college, and worked as a research consultant in the private sector. Presently, I am working towards my PhD in Political Science at Temple University where I am writing a dissertation on Pennsylvania school boards, candidate recruitment, and political ambition. I also teach courses in government, history, and civic engagement at two Philadelphia-area universities.

I am submitting this testimony in support of Councilman Oh’s legislation because I find that Philadelphia—and particularly Philadelphia public officials—are at a great disadvantage when it comes to seeking state and federal public offices. It is my belief that the dearth of Philadelphia officials running for state and federal positions in Pennsylvania is at least partially attributable the “resign to run” law, which effectively stifles political ambition rather than fostering it. Likewise, as a political scientist, I find that the “resign to run” law is contrary to everything that we, in a democratic society believe as far as the establishment of a fair, level playing field for public office-seekers.

As I have learned in my extensive governmental and political travel throughout the Commonwealth, Philadelphia is the only one of our 67 counties in which local officeholders are prohibited from seeking other elected positions without first resigning from their initial offices. Such a situation not only limits opportunities for Philadelphia-based candidates, but it also limits the opportunity for Philadelphia voters to have a voice in state and federal races where individuals with legitimate governmental experience as members of City Council, a Mayor, a City Controller, or a District Attorney are punished for seeking another office rather than encouraged to declare their candidacies.

One recent example of the resign to run law impairing the statewide candidacy of a Philadelphia-based elected official was in 2010 when former City Councilman Frank Rizzo, Jr. explored a bid for the office of Lieutenant Governor in the Republican primary. Unlike the other seven or so contestants in that race who were free to declare their candidacies at the time of their own choosing, Rizzo was unable to launch a formal campaign because by doing so, he would have had to immediately vacate his position on council. In a January 25, 2010 article for PA2010.com, journalist Dan Hirschhorn noted that “It remains unclear why Rizzo stayed below the radar for so long. But it’s likely he remained hesitant to give up his Council seat, a move that would be required if he officially became a candidate.”

In other words, Rizzo’s candidacy for the office of Lieutenant Governor failed to materialize in part because the Councilman was prohibited by the City Charter from formally declaring his candidacy and doing the things required of a successful candidate for public office.

Hypothetically speaking, if Ed Rendell, who is widely regarded as one of the most consequential figures in modern Philadelphia history, was still serving as mayor in 2002 he would have had to resign his office before even formally announcing his gubernatorial campaign. Likewise, should a theoretical vacancy occur next month in a Philadelphia-based congressional district, the pool of potential candidates with governmental experience holding city-based offices would likely be slim due to “resign to run” as those on council or in other city positions would be prevented from publicly exploring a candidacy, raising money, or announcing their intention to run. Should a member of City Council, for instance, decide to run for that position, he or she would inevitably fall weeks or months behind in organization building, fundraising, and grassroots campaigning given that any non-city official candidate or candidates would not be constrained by the provisions of the City Charter.

In a 1929, a young Texas college student named Lyndon Johnson wrote that “Ambition is an uncomfortable companion many times. He creates a discontent with present surroundings and achievements; he is never satisfied but always pressing forward to better things in the future. Restless, energetic, purposeful, it is ambition that makes of the creature a real man.”

It is time for us to stop treating political ambition as a pariah and instead recognize that Philadelphia’s public officials who seek to continue their service at the state or federal level ought to be competing on the same level playing field as their colleagues and potential opponents from Pennsylvania’s 66 other counties or incumbent elected officials who hold legislative or congressional seats.

I urge you to support Councilman Oh’s legislation to move Philadelphia forward.

Thank you for your time.
Submitted by:

Nathan R. Shrader

 

2454 Amber Street
Philadelphia, PA 19125
Tel: 724-433-2168
Email: nrs@temple.edu

Category: General

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