By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The president of Philadelphia City Council has decided to call a special election to fill the vacancy created by the departure of former at-large councilman Bill Green, now chair of the School Reform Commission (see related story).

And Council President Clarke is encouraging independents to step into the fray.  He says a special election to fill the open Council seat will take place on May 20th, coinciding with the Pennsylvania primary.

“The fact that there is close to two years left on the unexpired term, I thought it would be prudent to just go ahead and call the special (election), to allow that particular seat to be filled,” Clarke said today.  “This will be a one-step election — it’s not a primary election.  Whoever wins on that particular day will be the councilperson upon certification of the election results.”

Ward leaders for the Democratic and Republican parties will choose the nominees whose names will appear on the ballot — a process that usually guarantees victory for whomever the Democratic ward leaders choose.

“That is probable,” agrees Clarke.  “But when you have a city where the registration is three to one (or) four to one, Democrat vs. Republican, it’s traditionally more than likely that the Democratic nominee will be the favorite.”

But Clarke is also spelling out a process by which independents could get their names on the special election ballot.

“I wanted to make sure it is a fair and balanced approach, and that is why we are providing information about any independent individual or any independent party being able to have their person on the ballot,” he said today.  “I thought it was important for a special election to give everybody an opportunity.”

Details on that process for independents can be found at  The seat opened last month when second-term councilman Bill Green resigned to become chairman of the School Reform Commission (see previous story).

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