Martina White is Enemy No. 1 among Philadelphia progressives.
They see the Republican state lawmaker as an anti-immigrant, anti-Black Lives Matter clone of President Trump — and they're praying they can knock her out of her seat in 2018.
Even in a potential "wave election," though, that might not be easy. White is popular in her moderate district in Northeast Philly. She has also won the support of numerous labor groups, including the area's powerful police union. And the only Democrat challenging White has baggage.
Mike Doyle, a 40-year-old Realtor living in the Parkwood neighborhood, recently filed paperwork to run against White.
On Doyle's campaign website, he acknowledges that he has struggled with alcoholism. He even talked about his fight with addiction at his kickoff announcement. But there's one detail he didn't mention: Doyle pleaded guilty in 2004 to driving under the influence. He was put on house arrest for one month.
Asked about the charge, Doyle said he has been sober since 2013. He said he is running for office to "show addicts that there is no stigma to having this disease" and because he doesn't "want to see people suffer and die anymore" from drug and alcohol overdoses.
Doyle said he doesn't think his past will hurt his campaign. "If Martina White wants to use my disease to paint me in a negative light, then what she's doing is being uncompassionate toward all the addicts that are out there suffering," he said. "Would she want to run against somebody who had diabetes and ridicule them for having diabetes?"
Is it fair, we asked Doyle, to suggest that criticizing drunken driving is akin to shaming alcoholics? "A lot of people in recovery have pasts where they have had DUIs or run-ins with the law," he said. "With God's will, I will never drink again, and I will certainly never drive and drink."
The DUI charge isn't the only blemish in Doyle's past: The state's Revenue Department filed a $3,784 tax lien against him in 2017.
White called Doyle's mistakes "shocking and unfortunate."
Doyle is now on a payment plan to satisfy the tax debt by 2020. The unpaid bill originated from 2015, when he said he changed the legal structure of his real estate business. He also suggested that his financial troubles were compounded by his donations to several nonprofits and social-justice causes last year, including the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
"In retrospect, I probably should have paid less money fighting for just causes and more towards my bills," he said. "The Native American community is really suffering terribly when it comes to poverty. I'd much rather incur a lien and pay that off over time and know that the money went towards people who are much less fortunate than my wife and I."
When the Pennsylvania Supreme Court imposed a new congressional district map last month, Delaware County Democrats were elated.
The old map took a hacksaw to their suburban base. But the new map keeps it solidly intact: Nearly 80 percent of the Fifth Congressional District is based in Delco, with the rest split between Philadelphia and Montgomery County.
In recent weeks, though, some Delco Dems have fretted privately that one of their own might not win the seat if the dynamics of the primary don't change. One of those people worrying appears to be David Landau, the chairman of Delaware County's Democratic Party.
In a Feb. 21 email obtained by Clout, Landau told party leaders that the new district is "an exciting opportunity." But more than a dozen Democrats are running, he said, and only one lives in the small part of the district that encompasses Philly: Richard Lazer, "a protege of Local 98 boss John Dougherty."
Observers have speculated that Lazer, who has close ties to Dougherty's electricians union, could find it challenging to win in a mostly suburban district if he were facing only two or three Delaware County Democrats. But in a crowded field, he could succeed if the Delaware County vote was fragmented and he captured the vast majority of Philly's vote.
Either way, a potentially bruising battle between Delco and Philly Democrats is all but guaranteed.
"If there are even 5 or 6 Delco based candidates without any guidance from us, Lazar [sic] will win and defeat our opportunity to put a Delco Dem in Congress," Landau wrote to party leaders. "In fact, he is counting on us having a free for all so he can win."
Landau added in the email that a party committee "has met and come up with a plan to guide the party through this," and "there will be an emergency conference call … to discuss the situation."
Asked for comment, Dougherty didn't hold back: "Landau's entire email seemed pretty unhinged to me," he said, "and very disingenuous towards his own political party. … I really don't want to believe he's an elitist. I guess he just had a bad day."
Lazer spokesman Gabe Roberts struck a slightly different tone. He said the campaign "is about bringing people together and standing up for working families. … Our problems transcend geographic boundaries." He added: "Donald Trump favors big banks and corporations. He's the one we must fight."
Landau told Clout there is no plan to oppose Lazer. He said he was referring to the party's process, in the works for months, to vet candidates in order to provide recommendations to Democratic committee people. "The email was merely to get people energized to get on a conference call," he said.
Landau acknowledged that he personally wants a Delco resident to win the district, but he said Lazer will still get a fair shake. The committee people are planning to vote on whether to endorse someone for the seat in the next month or so. "It's not up to me," Landau said.