Molly Sheehan, a scientist running for Congress in the Philadelphia region, got a call Wednesday morning.

It was Greg Vitali, one of her nine — yes, nine — Democratic opponents in the clown-car primary for Pennsylvania's Fifth District. Vitali, a 61-year-old state representative, is in second place, according to a few internal polls, despite having virtually no money.

Within inches of the U.S. House, perhaps, Vitali offered a proposition to his 32-year-old foe: He asked Sheehan to drop out of the congressional race and endorse him. After all, he said, they care about the same things: the environment and reducing the influence of money on politics.

Vitali also noted that Mary Gay Scanlon, a Ballard Spahr attorney backed by Comcast senior executive V.P. David L. Cohen, is ahead of him in campaign polls. "He suggested to me, 'Think about who you'd like to be your next congressperson: me or Mary Gay?'" Sheehan said.

Sheehan said she was offended by Vitali's request: He is "asking a strong woman candidate to drop out to support him so he can defeat another woman candidate."

Plus, Sheehan said, she has been running for Congress for a year — much longer than Vitali — and "I believe I can win this primary."

"Get out of the way, 'qualified' man coming through!" she joked about his attitude.

Vitali didn't dispute that he told Sheehan she ought to leave the race and throw her support to him. But he said "it has nothing to do with gender."

He said he also "made the same request" to a male candidate in the Fifth District primary, Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland.

Vitali added that "one candidate asking another of the same party to consider withdrawing in the course of a campaign is a very common thing to do — I'm very surprised she would have taken any offense or gone to the press with this."

He's right in at least one way: Clout hears tales of such back-room requests all the time. We've noticed it's often tenured politicians asking younger ones to bail.

That's politics. One might argue that it also would have been politics — good politics — to have realized that asking a first-time candidate like Sheehan to drop her bid in the "Year of the Woman" could backfire.

The Stack vs. Boyle feud continues, Part 79,245

Bob Stewart says he likes to help his elderly neighbors fix their cars and resolve problems with the Water Department.

So when the leader of Northeast Philly's 58th Ward asked him if he'd like to run for a Democratic committee post, Stewart obliged, figuring he'd be able to get calls returned by city officials.

"I didn't know I was walking into a Stacks vs. the Boyles war," Stewart, a journalist, said.

Yes, there's a new front in the epic rivalry between Lt. Gov. Mike Stack and the Boyle brothers, two Democratic families in the Northeast. You know, the feud that was recently described in a federal case as "Philadelphia's political equivalent of the Hatfields and McCoys."

State Rep. Kevin Boyle is running for Democratic committee person in the 58th Ward. He's campaigning alongside Victoria Cram, who works in the office of U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, Kevin's brother. Committee people are the foot soldiers of the Democratic Party, and elect the city's powerful ward leaders.

The Boyles' goal, some political insiders think, is to install an ally as leader of the 58th Ward. That ward is currently led by the brother-in-law of their longtime foe, Stack. This is a brawl so bad that Stack's wife reportedly once flipped Kevin Boyle the bird — and then threw a cup of soda at him — at a church parish hall.

(Did we mention that all these people are in the same political party? Technically?)

Kevin Boyle appears to be taking this very seriously, at least on paper. A PAC known as the Northeast Democratic Club is calling his neighbors and mailing them letters on Kevin's behalf, saying he'll hold "our elected officials and city government accountable." (Never mind that Kevin Boyle is an elected official.)

Kevin Boyle said he was recruited by Democratic neighbors to "help improve the party in my neighborhood," where Republicans performed well last election. He didn't respond to a question about whether he was trying to oust Team Stack.

Stack's spokesman, Marty Marks, said: "We wish everybody luck." Clout could practically see his Cheshire grin through the phone.