By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A city councilman today will propose that the city tweak the 60-year old rule which forces locally-elected officials to resign their post to run for another position like mayor or governor.
Councilman David Oh is introducing a plan to scale back the “resign to run” rule in the Home Rule Charter. Currently, a city elected official must resign as soon as they announce for another office. Under Oh’s plan, they could delay the resignation until the filing deadline for the primary:
“They would not have to resign immediately. But prior to the ballots coming out, they would have to withdraw from one of the two positions,” Oh said. “They couldn’t have two names simultaneously on the ballot. So if they didn’t run for mayor, they could withdraw and keep their seat.”
Candidates would still not be allowed to run for two positions at once, but Oh says this gives them extra time to make a crucial decision.
“The advantage it gives them is that a year prior they could start announcing their intentions, put together a campaign committee, start raising money. And they may find that they are not well-received in terms of running for mayor and they’ll withdraw. Or they may find that they are very well-received, and decide at that point in time, that as they enter the primary they will not run for re-election in their current position but run for mayor.”
Oh’s proposal, if approved, would not take effect until 2016. So the current crop of city council members, at least two of whom are frequently spoken of as potential mayoral candidates, would still have to resign to run for mayor in 2015.
But Oh believes this change would offer Philadelphia elected officials who seek state office more parity with federal and state incumbents, who do not have to resign to run:
“Any city elected official, once this passes, would be able to explore running for statewide position such as governor or Lt. governor, treasurer or auditor general, without having to resign.”
Oh’s plan would need the approval of council and the mayor, and then would be put to voters in a ballot referendum. Oh hopes that would come next spring.
The requirement that city incumbents resign before seeking another post was included in the charter to ward off the use of patronage workers for political purposes.
An effort to eliminate the provision entirely surfaced in council committee in 2006 but did not advance. Earlier that year, then-councilman Michael Nutter resigned to run for mayor.