Challenger James Clay now a sure thing
State Rep. Tony Payton has withdrawn from the primary race for the 179th Legislative District, after being thrown off the ballot earlier this week by a challenge in Commonwealth Court, according to reports.
More than 1,600 signatures on his nominating petitions, which had 1,854 signatures, were voided in a court challenge filed by Doris Robinson, ward leader of the 23rd Ward.
Payton did not return the Tribune’s repeated phone calls Friday.
However, he told the Daily News that he thought Robinson’s ward leader, former city Councilman Daniel Savage, was behind the suit.
Payton acknowledged that he’d had problems collecting signatures.
“I went to several churches,” Payton said. “It turns out, a lot of people at church aren’t registered, or are registered Republican or with no affiliation.”
As the incumbent, Payton was expected to win re-election. His withdrawal leaves the seat open for Democratic challenger James Clay Jr., the only other candidate on the ballot.
Payton will continue to serve the rest of his term, which ends in January.
The 31-year-old Payton has crossed swords several times with the city’s Democratic establishment, and failed to receive the party’s endorsement in at least one of his re-election bids.
He first won the seat in 2007 when he replaced retiring Rep. Bill Rieger, who had held the post for 40 years. At that time, Payton prevailed over fellow Democrat Emilio Vasquez, who had the blessing of party leaders, only after a long court battle, which left a judge to declare Payton the victor.
Even after winning, Payton continued to spar with party leaders, openly feuding with Savage after Payton appeared at a campaign event with Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sanchez as she fought Savage to represent the 7th District.
More recently, Payton was a vocal critic of Democratic City Committee Chairman and U.S. Rep. Bob Brady for his role in drawing up the state’s new redistricting plan, which Payton said gerrymandered the First Congressional District to give Brady more white supporters as he prepared to face a Black challenger, Judge Jimmie Moore.
Payton threw his support to Moore, who has since withdrawn from the congressional race.
Retired municipal court Judge Jimmie Moore has dropped out of the race for the First Congressional District — leaving U.S. Rep. Bob Brady unchallenged as the April 24 primary closes in.
“After giving full consideration [and] in an effort to unify the Philadelphia Democratic Party, [I] have decided to withdraw my candidacy,” Moore said in a joint statement issued with Brady on Thursday, March 1.
The two men promised to work together for the future of the district and the Democratic Party.
Both “pledged to work together for the good of the Democratic Party to focus on creating jobs, reducing hunger, tackling crime and ensuring that the federal government works effectively and efficiently.
Brady praised Moore for his “noble and selfless decision to withdraw.”
Though Brady has easily kept his seat since winning it in 1998, there was intense speculation that he was worried about Moore’s challenge, particularly after the state’s re-districting plan — now being re-drawn for a second time — that shifts district lines to include more white voters.
Brady, in earlier interviews, dismissed that idea.
Moore’s withdrawal seemed to follow a pattern followed by Brady’s other would-be Democratic challengers.
In 2008, Keith Leaphart launched a brief primary challenge to Brady, but he too dropped out.
“Bob is hard to beat,” Leaphart told the Tribune in a brief interview earlier this year.
At least part of the difficulty stems from the fact that Brady, in addition to his seat in Congress, also serves as chairman of the Democratic City Committee, a post he’s held since 1986, which makes it difficult for Democrats considering a challenge.
Brady, discussing Moore’s challenge earlier this year, summed up the situation faced by almost any Democratic candidate who would oppose him.
“Jimmie Moore is somebody who I supported,” said Brady. “I supported him two times and now he wants to run against me. That doesn’t sound too loyal to me.”
In Thursday’s statement, Brady promised to “support Judge Moore in the future toward improving the quality of life for our fellow Philadelphians and Greater Philadelphia area.”
Moore’s campaign was deep in debt. At year’s end, it reported debts totaling more than $145,000 — including about $65,000 loaned to the candidate.