This article was published by Philadelphia Citypaper on November 11, 2011. Click here to read the article on the publisher’s website.
By Daniel Denvir
Lawyer Matthew Wolfe is the Republican Leader of West Philadelphia’s 47th Ward and a lead activist in the campaign to overthrow Philadelphia Republican Party boss Michael Meehan,whose family has controlled the city’s party for three generations.
You are a Republican activist living right on Clark Park, West Philly’s verdant left-wing front lawn. How does that work?
We get a lot of people at the University of Pennsylvania. We have some of the most conservative Republicans in the city and some of the most liberal Republicans in the city. And we ran more candidates than the Democrats in the 27th Ward last year.
We need to get our numbers up. That’s a problem. But in the last [primary] election, we had the highest percentage in the city for [reform candidates] Al Schmidt and John Featherman.
The Democrats in University City are very much left of center, but there are Republicans there. We’re not one of the areas with the heaviest Republican populations, but we’re not one of the areas with the least Republicans.
Why are you supporting Karen Brown, a candidate supported by the Republican machine that you opposed in the primary, and who was until recently a Democrat?
Karen Brown was nominated by the Republican voters in the city. A big part of my job is to support Republican candidates. It’s not like I’m torn because Michael Nutter has been a terrific mayor. Michael Nutter has been a terrible mayor. Philadelphia’s problem is not that we don’t tax our people enough. The problem is that we spend too much. Want to lower the crime rate? Give people jobs. And you’re not going to give people jobs by raising people’s taxes. Nutter is just the most recent bad mayor.
So even though Brown was a Democrat?
Absolutely. She has described herself as conservative on fiscal issues and more liberal on social issues. The bottom line is for a municipal office, there’s not a Democratic or Republican way to fix a pothole.
What do you make of her debate performance?
Did you watch the debate? Mayor Nutter agreed to a debate, but it was a debate that coincided with a Phillies game.
She made a number of claims that she could not back up, including that the Police Department was manipulating murder statistics.
Well, she’s said that she’s had trouble getting information from the Nutter administration.
I understand the virtue of not being the party of the Bob Brady party machine, but will you get anywhere in Philly if you’re the party of Bachmann or Perry?
Yes, it is true that presidential politics have ramifications here. Arguably, Philadelphia’s Republican Party might be better off if Huntsman or Romney were the Republican nominee. And not all of our people would say that; some are a bit more conservative. Again, we have a market here in Philadelphia, and the market is the taxpayer getting screwed for many years. We’re going to have a hard time reaching people whose income is derived from the government, either because they are a government employee or receive government assistance. But there’s no reason that we can’t develop an approach that can appeal to taxpayers in the city, and become a force to be reckoned with in terms of city policy.
Who do you support for the Republican nomination?
Huntsman. I’m with Huntsman until he wins, loses or drops out. Romney would be my second choice. Any of them — Bachmann, Perry, Gingrich, Santorum — all are better than Obama. No hesitation.