In a stunning upset that underscored just how tenuous ward support can be in Philadelphia, challenger Rebecca Rhynhart delivered a convincing victory over three-time incumbent Alan Butkovitz in the Democratic primary for Philadelphia City Controller.
Rhynhart, who maintained a double-digit lead throughout the evening, tweeted that she received a call from Butkovitz just before 10 p.m., conceding the race. With final results still to come, she was leading by a 57-42 percent margin when Butkovitz called.
As compared to the mostly staid interactions between the Democratic candidates for Philadelphia district attorney, the controller primary was marred by acrimony on both sides, as evidenced by the candidates’ second debate, which devolved into a shouting match at times.
A former Wall Streeter who made the move into municipal government as former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter’s budget director and chief administrative officer, Rhynhart campaigned as a change agent who would make the office more aggressive and transparent – a focus that she said was key to her victory over Butkovitz, a longtime politician and ward leader who lost handily despite the support of the Democratic City Committee.
Speaking from her campaign’s celebration at Center City bar Strangelove’s, Rhynhart said people voted for her because “I have a message of being qualified, but also of change, of not having run for office before and wanting a different perspective – that resonated with people – that I’m not afraid to take on entrenched political interests.”
As for that concession call, she said it was a positive one. “It was a very nice conversation. I look forward to working with him on a smooth transition,” adding that in addition to facilitating the changeover, she will also be working on the November general election.