While Democrats — who far outnumber Republicans in Philadelphia — held court at a gala at the ballroom of the Warwick Hotel to rejoice President Barack Obama’s re-election, the reaction 15 blocks east was more subdued.
“Congratulations to President Obama and the Democratic Party on their victory,” said John Featherman, a Republican who ran against U.S. Rep. Bob Brady and lost. “The American people spoke, and I urge my colleagues to respect the will of the people. Differences that Republicans have with Democrats should no longer be met with obstruction.”
Featherman attended a Republican watch party on South Street Tuesday night, it was a group made up of what he called “loyal opposition” — Republicans from Philadelphia who have split with the party’s traditional leaders. Both sides agreed to a truce during the presidential election.
On the other side, Calvin Tucker, a Black Republican, speaking Wednesday, also congratulated the president.
“Hopefully, we can now get about the business of addressing some of the major issues that confront the nation and Philadelphia,” he said, adding that he too, would like to see the GOP embrace African Americans.
“What we have to do is engage the African-American community in a broader discussion about the issues they’re confronting,” Tucker said. “We’ve got to not be seen as the party who is not receptive to the big tent. If we do, we’ll have some success in the future.”
Featherman and the loyal opposition gathered in a second floor room at Paddy Whacks Pub at Second and South streets where about 125 Philadelphia Republicans watched the returns come in. Members of the city’s Grand Old Party gathered in knots near the bar and the buffet, steaming along the back wall, grazing on hors d'oeuvres and cocktails as overhead television sets carried the election results.
At least five flat screens — all turned to Fox News — carried election news to the faithful.
At 9:15 p.m. when the network projected that Obama had carried Pennsylvania, few people seemed to notice. There was a notable lack of enthusiasm, summed up by one woman as she filled her plate at the buffet.
“I don’t think tonight is going to be very exciting,” she said to the man next to her. He nodded in agreement as they meandered off to a table.
Featherman noted that many in the room were lukewarm in their support of Romney. As an example, he said he supported Ron Paul in the primary.
“That crowd was not an ordinary group of Republicans,” he said. “We tend to be more Center City professionals and once we register the numbers, we’re not going to spew hateful kinds of responses. Many of those people did not support Romney in the primary, so I don’t think they had much emotion invested in Romney.”
That 84 percent of Philadelphians had supported the Democrat was unremarkable.
But, outside the city and region ,the race had become a nail-biter.
By 10 p.m. with 56 percent of the state’s votes counted, most media outlets, including the New York Times and CBS News, trumpeted Obama’s win in Pennsylvania and the 20 electoral votes it gave the president.
Pennsylvania’s highest ranking Republican refused to concede anything.
“There’s a long way to go,” Gov. Tom Corbett told the Associated Press, waving away the party’s loss in Pennsylvania.
He would be proven wrong shortly after that statement.
In Philadelphia, on Election Day, party officials vigorously defended its prerogatives — suing to have a mural depicting Obama painted on the wall of the Benjamin Franklin Elementary School polling place covered up, and fighting to make sure minority inspectors were allowed in all polling places.
The congenial crowd at Paddy’s clung to the hope that Romney would somehow garner the 270 electoral votes needed to win the contest. But, with most of the voting behind them, that hope consisted mostly of glancing up from their drinks more frequently.
As the clock approached 10:30 p.m., many news outlets showed Romney pulling ahead with electoral votes 158 to 147. Fox defied the trend and reported both men in an electoral tie 163 to 163.
Chatter in the room increased, momentarily.
But California and its 55 electoral votes remained uncounted. None of the states of the far west had been counted.
At 11 p.m. western returns started to come in. Fox reported that California and Washington had backed Obama, netting the president 67 electoral votes.
By 11:19 even Fox was giving Obama 268. The crowd at Paddy’s thinned.
Early Wednesday morning it was clear that the president had won with 303 electoral votes to Romney’s 206.
“I’m hoping we can put aside the rancor, and let the president and Democratic Party try to speak for the American people,” said Featherman on Wednesday morning.
Results tallied Tuesday are preliminary — the count only becomes official in Pennsylvania only after the state Department of State certifies the results, a process that can take several days.
Hoping to get City Council to intervene, the president of the firefighters’ union on Thursday asked Council members to try to stop Mayor Michael Nutter’s plans for massive reassignment of the city’s paramedics.
“Anything you could do, we would greatly appreciate,” Bill Gault, head of Firefighters Local 22, told council members as they gathered in caucus before Thursday’s meeting.
“Citizens are going to suffer while we’re learning new locals, new ERs, new partners, new systems.”
On Jan. 8, the administration is planning to shuffle paramedics among the city’s firehouses as it implements scheduling changes across the city. Administration officials said the action is the result of a 2009 lawsuit.
Gault said 80 percent of the city’s paramedics would be affected by the plans and that many don’t want to transfer. According to Gault, only 17 percent wanted to be reassigned.
More important, he said, the changes will endanger public safety as paramedics are forced to learn new routines.
“It will lead to unnecessary delays in providing lifesaving services, dangerously diminished coordination with hospitals and emergency room staff and needless disruption of EMS personnel and their families’ lives,” Gault said in a letter to Council.
The union has filed a grievance to halt the reassignments.
Also on Thursday, Council approved a bill that would give condominiums a $100 rebate on their garbage collection.
The measure passed on a 12-5 vote with Bill Green, Curtis Jones, Jack Kelly, Maria Quinones Sanchez and Marian Tasco voting against it.
The bill’s sponsor, Jim Kenney, said the rebate would give people who live in condominiums a needed break because many of them cannot use the city’s garbage collection service.
“When people pay real estate taxes for basic city services and they don’t get that service, they have a right to get at least some reimbursement,” he said. “One of the basic city services residents should get is trash collection, and they don’t get it.”
Green said that concept was flawed, noting that rebates aren’t given to people who don’t send their children to city schools, use police services, community centers or pools.
“This bill is bad policy,” said Green, noting that it would cost the city money at a time when it can’t afford to lose revenue. “We will wish he had these millions in the general fund.”
Mayor Michael Nutter has threatened to veto the bill. Like Green, the administration is worried about the effect the rebate would have on the city’s coffers.
Kenney noted that the measure passed with 12 votes — a veto-proof majority — and said he would simply reintroduce it in the new year if Nutter vetoes. By then, the make up of Council will have radically changed as six new members take their seats, making it impossible to tell what might happen.
“We won’t know until we get there,” said Kenney.
In other news, Council amended a proposal by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown aimed at keeping children from coming into contact with lead paint.
The amendment would require landlords who rent to families with children six or under to remove lead paint from their properties.
Everyone acknowledged that the move was a compromise. Brown said without it she was afraid the bill would die.
“We have yet a great many concerns,” said Darrell Zaslow, an attorney representing the Homeowners’ Association of Philadelphia. “Yet, this is a compromise we will do our best to implement successfully.”
Landlords opposed the original bill - which would have been much broader in its requirements for removal of lead paint, and required new lead paint testing each time a new tenant moved in.
Brown said the matter was a public safety issue and that 1,100 Philadelphia children got lead poisoning last year. She hoped to have the bill up for a final vote on Dec. 15.
Not everyone supported the compromise move.
John Featherman, a real estate agent and former candidate for mayor, said the bill did not go far enough to protect kids, and would actually lead to discrimination against families with young children as landlords tried to keep them out of their units to avoid the city’s proposed rules.
“The people that vote yes on this legislation will have blood on their hands,” he said.
In a related note, on Wednesday, council gave preliminary approval to the city’s new zoning code. The plan, which has been in the works for four years, is expected to pass next week, the last meeting of the 2011 legislative session.