City Hall newbies tap campaign staffers for top jobs

One soon-to-be deputy came under fire for shoddy consulting work this year.

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Danya Henninger / Billy Penn
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Philadelphia City Hall is getting a wave of new freshman elected officials next year — and they’re bringing friends with them.

Sure, there’s still a general election in November. But some Democratic nominees will not face a challenger on the ballot, and for others, the city’s 7-to-1 Democratic voter edge means they are essentially shoe-ins for victory.

With those odds, incoming pols have begun naming their prospective deputies and chiefs of staff who will help deliver on campaign promises once they take office.

A Democratic consultant who bungled a number of political campaigns this year is now in line to become first deputy to the city’s incoming Register of Wills, sources tell Billy Penn, while some soon-to-be councilmembers have tapped campaign managers to serve as their top top aides.

Operative behind ‘atrocious’ petitions to join Register of Wills

With no Republican or third-party opponent in the November general election, Tracey Gordon is the sure favorite to take over the Register of Wills — an obscure row office that handles marriage licenses and estate transfers, among other duties.

Incumbent Ron Donnatucci held a monopoly on the office for 40 years, until Gordon bested the veteran Democrat in one of the biggest upsets of the May primary.

Gordon raised very little money — and failed to file a campaign finance report until after her victory. Her campaign manager was apparently Rasheen Crews, who sources say is now on deck as her chief of staff. The Gordon campaign would not confirm or deny this prospect.

Crews himself made news during the primary.

His consulting practice came under political fire in March after dozens of candidates retained his  help collecting signatures. Candidates need jots from a minimum of 1,000 registered voters in order to appear on the primary ballot — and to reach that number, the consultant provided some candidates with faked signatures and photocopied pages, the Inquirer reported at the time.

“Atrocious,” Democratic City Committee chairman Bob Brady said of Crews’ handywork.

Some candidates were forced to drop out after seeking Crews’ help — including the top-billed Democratic candidate for the Court of Common Pleas.

Crews referred Billy Penn’s questions to a spokesperson, Mustafa Rashed, who said that numerous campaigns approached Crews “at the 11th hour” to recruit help gathering signatures before the deadline.

“In attempt to help more people than he could manage, Mr. Crews did not use his normal vetting process for hiring workers to collect signatures,” Rashed said. “Rasheen takes full responsibility for that.”

Rashed contended that the vast majority of the candidates who hired Crews in the primary season — which include Mayor Jim Kenney as well as City Council candidates — were “satisfied with his work.”

A 26-year-old on the rise and a City Hall veteran

City Council is destined to get a number of new faces this year, and the likely shoe-ins in the general election are already staffing up.

Jamie Gauthier, the former Fairmount Park Conservancy director, toppled a 45-year West Philly dynasty with her upset over Councilmember Jannie Blackwell in the May primary. She does not face a challenger in the November general election.

The campaign confirmed Erika Atwood, her campaign chair, is her presumptive chief of staff.

Atwood has deep experience in City Hall. She served under former Mayor Michael Nutter as the first director for the city’s Office of Black Male Engagement, and in the City Representative’s office.

Five Democrats, five Republicans and a slate of third-party and independent candidates are running for seven at-large seats on council. The five Democrats each traditionally claim a seat, thanks to the city’s blue voting bloc, while two seats are reserved for the top voter-getters from any so-called minority party.

Dominique Miller, the 26-year-old campaign manager for Democratic at-large nominee Isaiah Thomas, confirmed she is Thomas’ prospective chief of staff.

If Thomas is elected in November, Miller would be the youngest African American woman to serve as chief of staff for the Philly councilmember in recent history, she said.

Prior to running Thomas’ campaign, the political operative worked as a fundraiser at J&S Strategies, a black-owned political consulting firm, and also served as finance director for District Attorney Larry Krasner’s insurgent campaign in 2017.

The other likely Democratic newcomer for Council at-large, Katherine Gilmore Richardson, could not be reached for comment, though sources said she has not selected a chief of staff yet.

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