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Primary Election Night With Bob Brady

Seeing a victory in defeating the millionaire, even though Brady lost.


From the May 16, 2007 Philadelphia Weekly

The Brady clan walk out of their stone rancher in leafy Overbrook Farms, past their fleet of American-made cars, and up 71st Street to the polling station.

Led by the family dog Min Zhu (Chinese for "sweet little Democrat"), the orchestrated photo-op has a Kennedyesque feel - backslapping Bob Brady grinning in his crisp white shirt and red tie, two granddaughters in Catholic school uniforms, the tiny wife wearing giant earrings, and burly Bob Jr. in the background next to his wife with flowing auburn hair.

"It's a good day, a beautiful day," the congressman announces despite having gotten about 30 minutes of sleep the night before. "I love campaigning. I'm enjoying myself."

The Bradys ignore a homemade bedsheet-sized sign that reads "KNOX=SHARK," and they duck into a residential garage with two voting booths.

When he reemerges, the subdued Brady announces, "The pollsters always get it wrong."

He's been trailing in recent polls, and there's been speculation that the six-term congressman has been pulling strings to get anyone other than Tom Knox elected. Still, he's been making the rounds, with nine campaign stops the day before the election and 17 on Election Day.

"I can't ride by without stopping to talk to people," Brady says. "I got to get out of the car and shake their hand. In North Philadelphia, Northeast Philadelphia, right here."

As if on cue, a Streets Department sweeper truck hums by, the horn beeping in support.

After Brady's wife Debbie votes, jocular Bob mumbles, "I hope my wife did the right thing here."

"Pardon me?" she responds with a startled expression.


At the Sheet Metal Workers Union Hall on Delaware Avenue an hour later, the family man becomes the labor leader. Brady's collar is unbuttoned, his sleeves are rolled up, and the wife is elsewhere.
He shakes hands, kisses cheeks and intimately whispers into people's ears. Seamus McCaffrey, the candidate for Pennsylvania Supreme Court judge, jokingly kisses Brady's right hand in deference.

"He lives and bleeds and breathes labor," McCaffrey bellows at the crowd of 300-plus tradesmen, the kind of guys who'd start a riot if someone showed up at the Linc in a Terrell Owens Cowboys jersey. "He's wearing a tie right now, but he's one of you."

When Brady takes the mike, he gently offers, "All I need is eight more hours, and I'll give you eight years."

The union members pile into pickup trucks loaded with pamphlets and Brady signs, and they disperse throughout the city - a formidable and intimidating street team trying to get out the Brady vote.


Knox pops up on the television screens at 10:15 p.m., making his concession speech, and the small crowd at the Brady party begins jeering.

"Ten million down the drain," a woman snaps. "He never should've been on the ballot!"

Moments later Brady's Escalade arrives outside.

"They're saying you stopped Knox from winning," Bob Jr. tells his father.

"I did stop him from winning," Bob Sr. replies nonchalantly.

Surrounded by family and friends - including confidante Jonathan Saidel, Brady enters the half-empty hall, stopping to thank everyone in his path.

"I'm not going anywhere," he tells a gushing young man. "I'm always going to be there."

In fact, in April Brady was made the interim chairman of a cushy congressional committee that oversees, among other things, the daily operation of the House of Representatives' elections, the National Zoo and the Smithsonian Institute.

Then the somber chair of the city's Democratic Party runs into his congressional chief of staff Stanley White and says, "What time we got to be in tomorrow?"