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The old Philly tradition of street money, already on life support, appears to be receiving another blow. For now, the Hillary Clinton campaign does not plan to provide street money for Philadelphia ward leaders and committee people on Election Day, Billy Penn has learned.
Street money is a longstanding Philly tradition in which cash is given by political candidates to the Democratic City Committee. The Committee then passes the money along to the leaders of Philly’s 66 wards, who pass it along to the 1,688 committee members working on election day. Usually, each committee member gets about $100-$200. Street money is seen as a tactic for getting out the vote, and a gesture of goodwill to local Democrats.
The Clinton campaign would not confirm the rumblings among Philadelphia Democratic circles, or definitively say it wasn’t providing street money. But regardless, the campaign is confident it has enough staff and volunteers to get out the vote in Philadelphia, street money or not.
“Over the last 90 days, we’ve had more than 400,000 volunteer shifts, so we have the ground game to win on Election Day, based off the Obama organizing model,” said Hillary for PA communications director Stephanie Formas in a statement. “We have the infrastructure that will win on November 8.”
Clinton would be the latest major candidate to spurn the Democratic City Committee when it comes to street money, but not the first. Barack Obama’s campaign did not provide street money in 2008 or 2012. Gov. Tom Wolf didn’t in 2014 after the City Committee asked him for $340,000 in street money.
In the past, street money sums could approach the mid six-figures. Ed Rendell’s gubernatorial campaign provided $740,000 in 2002 and that was just for the primary.
Though it has become more common to not provide street money in recent years, the decision is generally not well-received. Obama’s campaign made its decision in 2008 despite hints in the weeks preceding the election it would give street money — and despite plenty of lobbying on behalf of Rendell. He addressed a crowd at the sheet-metal workers union hall, according to the Daily News, and shouted, “The single most important thing you can do to get elected is to have street money. There are people from the Obama campaign here, so let’s all say it again. The most important thing you can do to get elected is have street money.”
In 2014, after Wolf declined to give street money, Democratic City Committee chairman Bob Brady said Rendell provided about $125,000 for it and that the party got street money from elsewhere.
Rendell and Brady did not respond to interview requests.
Though polls show Clinton on track to get about 70 percent of the vote in Philadelphia, turnout is not expected to be as high for her here as it was for Obama the last two elections. Terry Madonna, a pollster for Franklin & Marshall, has said he’s noticed an “enthusiasm gap” for Clinton among black voters and young voters, two major groups that supported Obama in Philly.