This article was published by TribLive Total Media on May 3, 2014. Click here to read the article on the publisher’s website.
By Eric Heyl
Pittsburgh native J. Matthew Wolfe, 58, is an attorney running for an at-large seat on Philadelphia City Council in a May 20 special election. He spoke to the Trib regarding his attempt to play a significant role in a Republican resurgence in the city.
Q: It’s been 25 years since a Republican defeated a Democrat in a citywide race in Philadelphia. What makes you think you can buck that trend?
A: The reality is that we have come close in some elections. Sam Katz ran two really hard-fought races against (former Mayor) John Street, and frankly likely would have won had it not been for something that should have helped him — the discovering of a bug in the mayor’s office due to a federal investigation that was going on into corruption at City Hall.
Unfortunately, it was spun in a way that the Republicans from Washington were trying to team up to unfairly pick on the black Democratic mayor, which was ludicrous — and (Street supporters) admitted it was ludicrous after the election — but it certainly had some traction.
Q: But Democrats in Philadelphia outnumber Republicans by more than 6-to-1. Won’t that margin be tough to overcome?
A: I understand I have a high mountain to climb here. But this election is going to be a low-turnout election to begin with, because it is a primary. In addition to that, there is the special election I’m running in, which is way off to the side away from everything else.
So most people are going to come in and vote in the Democratic or Republican primary for governor and maybe not be concerned about the races lower on the ticket. That plays to my advantage in that there will be fewer Democrats voting in the special election.
Q: Do you feel a Republican resurgence can occur in Philadelphia by pushing a traditional Republican-style platform?
A: I don’t see any incompatibility with the broad things that the Republican Party stands for and improving the quality of life for Philadelphia citizens. Philadelphia is by many counts the poorest big city in America, and it didn’t happen by accident. There isn’t a policy that Philadelphia has implemented in the past 60 years that has been implemented by Republicans.
It’s real simple: Philadelphia can’t spend money it doesn’t have. Philadelphia can’t raise taxes to a level that chases businesses and taxpayers and jobs out of the city (or) have a tax structure that discourages businesses from opening up in the city.
Philadelphia needs to (spend its money) on police and fire, keeping our city clean, educating our children and maintaining our municipal infrastructure. We shouldn’t be spending money on anything else until we at least get that done properly. I think that lines up pretty closely with core Republican values.
Q: Although your family moved when you were young, you spent your early years in Pittsburgh. Do you have any fond memories of the city?
A: I remember going to the Dormont Pool — that was a big deal for me. (Even after moving) Pittsburgh always was a center for us because we had significant family there.
In another life, I headed up the legal department for the Department of Labor and Industry in Tom Ridge’s administration, and we had several offices in Pittsburgh that really reconnected me with Downtown.
Pittsburgh is a great town. I enjoy it.