Philadelphia's municipal election of November 5, 1963 involved contests for mayor, all seventeen city council seats, and several other executive and judicial offices. The Democrats lost vote share citywide and the Republicans gained one seat in City Council, but the Democratic acting mayor, James Hugh Joseph Tate, was elected to a full term and his party maintained their hold on the city government. The election was the first decline in the Democrats' share of the vote since they took control of the city government in the 1951 elections, and showed the growing tension between the reformers and ward bosses within their party.


Mayor James Tate

Since the 1951 election, Democrats in Philadelphia had held the mayor's office and a large majority of city council seats. Their victories in those years, which followed 67 years of Republican dominance, where achieved through a combination of reform-minded independents (including some former Republicans) and the Democratic organization led by Democratic City Committee chairman William J. Green, Jr.. This coalition brought increasingly large victories to the Democratic Party throughout the 1950s.[1]

This pattern held through 1959 under reform mayors Joseph S. Clark Jr. and Richardson Dilworth, but by the early 1960s the coalition had began to fray with reformers being increasingly marginalized.[1] After Dilworth won reelection with 65% of the vote in 1959, grand jury investigations into City Hall corruption damaged the Democrats' chances in the 1961 election. The Democrats maintained power that year, but by smaller margins. Their reduced majorities and increased association with machine politics signaled the beginning of the end for the party's coalition with independent good government reformers.[2] Dilworth's resignation in 1962 to run for governor made City Council President James Hugh Joseph Tate acting mayor. While Tate presented, in one author's words, "a rather neutral image in middle class wards," he also was the first mayor since Bernard Samuel to have come up through the ranks of a party machine.[3] The fading connection between the Democratic organization and good-government independents gave the Republicans their first hope for victory in years.[3]


1963 Philadelphia mayor election by ward

James Tate had served as acting mayor since Dilworth's resignation on February 12, 1962.[3] In 1963, he sought the Democratic nomination for election in his own right.[4] Tate's attempt at a four-year term exposed a growing breach in the coalition of independent reformers and Democratic ward bosses that had cemented that party's grip on the electorate since 1951. The Democratic City Committee, led by Representative William J. Green Jr., endorsed Tate, but the opinion was not universal.[5] Former mayor Clark, now a United States Senator, endorsed a slate of candidates proposed by the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), a left-leaning group of which he was a member.[5] For mayor, the ADA and Clark pushed Walter M. Phillips, a former city representative and one of the architects of the Democrats' reform measures of the early 1950s.[5]

The contrast between Tate and Phillips was highlighted in the primary campaign. Tate, the self-made son of Irish-American factory workers, charged that Phillips saw government service as "a hobby" and claimed he was "too inexperienced and does not know enough to deal with the problems" of running a large city.[4][6] Phillips in turn charged Tate with permitting corruption in city government, failing to improve schools, and driving out qualified city employees in favor of partisan patronage hires.[7] In a low-turnout primary, the Democratic electorate sided with Tate, who tallied 128,840 votes to Phillips's 40,931 and perennial candidate H. Jerome Jaspan's 13,165.[8]

The Republican nomination was also easily won by the party organization's favored candidate, James T. McDermott.[9] McDermott, who had lost a special election for city council in 1962, was a lawyer who had previously served as an assistant U.S. attorney.[10] During the general election campaign, McDermott tried to take on the reform mantle, saying that Tate had worked to sabotage the good-government reforms of the Clark and Dilworth administrations.[11] Tate, for his part, contrasted his experience with McDermott's and touted his endorsement by the AFL–CIO.[11] McDermott said that Tate "has never been off the public payroll in twenty-five years" and criticized the mayor's refusal to debate him.[11]

As the election neared, McDermott's attacks appeared to be working and political observers predicted a close race, possibly within 20,000 votes.[12] While it was the closest race in years, the actual results were more solidly in favor of Tate, who won by nine percentage points.[13] After a day of heavier-than-expected voter turnout, McDermott conceded that the mayor had won "fair and square."[14] Tate thanked labor leaders, ex-Mayor Dilworth, and chairman Green for their efforts, while extending a special thanks to President John F. Kennedy, who campaigned for Tate the previous week.[14]

Philadelphia mayoral election, 1963[13][15]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic James Hugh Joseph Tate 401,714 54.31 -11.03
Republican James T. McDermott 333,446 45.08 +10.80
Socialist Labor George S. Taylor 4,545 0.61 +0.23

City Council

Philadelphians elected a seventeen-member city council in 1963, with ten members representing districts of the city, and the remaining seven being elected at-large. For the at-large seats, each political party could nominate five candidates, and voters could only vote for five, with the result being that the majority party could only take five of the seven seats, leaving two for the minority party.

As in the mayor's race, a group of ADA-endorsed Democrats tried for nominations to City Council. In the at-large races, all five incumbents—Paul D'Ortona, Leon Kolankiewicz, Walter S. Pytko, Marshall L. Shepard, and Mary Varallo—were endorsed by the party's ward leaders, while liberals led by Clark pushed the candidacies of Lynwood F. Blount, Gordon Cavanaugh, Edmund B. Spaeth Jr., and Joy B. Takiff. Eight Democrats affiliated with neither of those factions also entered the race. The incumbents won easily, with vote totals ranging from 105,382 for Shepard to 71,852 for Pytko.[15] The highest vote total for the insurgents was Takiff's 32,665.[15] Incumbent Democrats in the 2nd, 5th, 6th, 8th, and 10th districts also fended off primary challenges easily. The Republicans nominated five for the at-large seats without opposition, including incumbents Thomas M. Foglietta and Virginia Knauer.[15] After the primary, Sheriff William M. Lennox denounced the challengers, calling the ADA "utterly repugnant to the people of this great historic city" and saying that "this self-proclaimed reform group should answer the questions on its 'Red China' allegiance which it evaded throughout the campaign."[16]

In the at-large seats during the general election, as in the mayor's race, the Democratic share of the vote decreased but they still reelected all five of their candidates.[17] Republicans reelected incumbents Thomas Foglietta and Virginia Knauer to their two at-large seats.[17] In the district races, there was more change. Republicans defeated incumbent Democrats in the two seats representing Northeast Philadelphia in races that Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Joseph C. Goulden said turned on City Hall corruption and civil rights issues.[17] The Democrats gained one seat back in the northwestern part of the city when Isadore H. Bellis narrowly defeated incumbent Stanley B. Smullen in a recently reconfigured 8th district.[17] Democrats retained their hold on the remaining seven district seats, though with reduced majorities.[18]

At-large vote share by party

  Democratic (56.07%)
  Republican (43.86%)
  Socialist Labor (0.07%)
Philadelphia city council election, at large, 1963[18]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Paul D'Ortona 404,039 11.28 -1.69
Democratic Marshall L. Shepard 402,386 11.24 -1.55
Democratic Mary Varallo 401,386 11.21 -1.60
Democratic Walter S. Pytko 400,057 11.17 -0.67[a]
Democratic Leon Kolankiewicz 399,790 11.16 -1.70
Republican Thomas M. Foglietta 317,587 8.87 +1.55
Republican Virginia Knauer 316,506 8.84 +1.70
Republican Frank S. Loescher 313,639 8.76 -
Republican Robert L. Leonard 313,627 8.76 -
Republican Robert Evans 309,203 8.63 -
Socialist Labor Wendell R. Camplin 2,726 0.07 -0.02
Philadelphia city council districts after the 1963 election (Democrats in blue, Republicans in red.)
Philadelphia city council election, district 1, 1963[18]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Emanuel Weinberg 37,425 54.89 -11.46
Republican Alvin J. Bello 30,751 45.11 +11.46
Philadelphia city council election, district 2, 1963[18]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Gaetano Giordano 36,456 56.78 -8.15
Republican Robert Cruice 27,749 43.22 +8.15
Philadelphia city council election, district 3, 1963[18]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Harry Norwitch 40,574 60.51 -3.87
Republican Mary Jane Ladner 26,479 39.49 +4.14
Philadelphia city council election, district 4, 1963[18][b]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic George X. Schwartz 44,633 68.23 -7.21
Republican Melvin J. Howell 20,782 31.77 +7.21
Philadelphia city council election, district 5, 1963[18]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Thomas McIntosh 34,742 75.27 -2.49
Republican Andrew Wilson 11,416 24.73 +2.92
Philadelphia city council election, district 6, 1963[18][b]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Edward F. McNulty 36,970 50.75 +16.43
Democratic William A. Dwyer Jr. 35,872 49.25 -16.43
Philadelphia city council election, district 7, 1963[18]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Joseph J. Hersch 41,111 58.10 -8.78
Republican Charles J. Margiotti, Jr. 29,650 41.90 +8.78
Philadelphia city council election, district 8, 1963[18][a]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Isadore H. Bellis 40,454 50.74 +3.16
Republican Stanley B. Smullen 39,273 49.26 -3.16
Philadelphia city council election, district 9, 1963[18]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Henry P. Carr 45,840 51.38 -15.44
Republican Edward R. Becker 43,382 48.62 +15.44
Philadelphia city council election, district 10, 1963[18][a]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican David Silver 51,471 52.24 +5.83
Democratic Robert B. Winkelman 47,054 47.76 -5.83

City commissioners

In the race for city commissioners, each party nominated two candidates and the top three were elected. The office was a county office, a holdover from the time before consolidation of the townships in Philadelphia County into one city. The most important of the remaining duties of the commissioners in Philadelphia was the conduct of the city's elections; they also had responsibility for regulating weights and measures.[19]

Incumbent Democrats Thomas P. McHenry and Maurice S. Osser saw the same decline in their vote share as other Democrats did across the city, but held on to their seats on the city commission. Incumbent Republican Louis Menna edged out his running mate, Charles Wright, for the third seat.[20] Two Socialist Labor Party candidates took a tiny share of the vote.

Philadelphia city commissioners, 1959[20]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Thomas P. McHenry 403,373 27.99 -4.21
Democratic Maurice S. Osser 403,270 27.98 -4.10
Republican Louis Menna 317,143 22.01 +4.04
Republican Charles Wright 311,330 21.60 +3.97
Socialist Labor Benjamin H. Perry 3,054 0.21 +0.21
Socialist Labor Mary Gesensway 2,985 0.21 +0.08

Other offices and ballot measures

Democrat William M. Lennox was reelected county sheriff, his fourth consecutive term.[20] Louis Amarando, also a Democrat, was reelected clerk of the court of quarter sessions (a court whose jurisdiction was later transferred to the court of common pleas).[20] The Democratic register of wills, John E. Walsh, Jr., also earned reelection.[20] All three Democrats won their races by twelve or thirteen points, a decline from 1959, but still a safe majority. The Democrats also took nine of the fourteen magisterial district judge positions up for election that year (a local court, the duties of which have since been superseded by the Philadelphia Municipal Court) with incumbent Benjamin Segal leading the list.[20]

The ballot contained three questions authorizing more city borrowing: the first for $20.2 million to spend on land and buildings, the second for $16.9 million to spend on water and sewage systems, and the third for $5 million to spend on the Philadelphia Gas Works. All three passed by greater than two-to-one margins.[20]

Philadelphia sheriff election, 1959[20]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic William M. Lennox 406,202 56.32 -8.40
Republican Charles J. Gazdzik 315,054 43.68 +8.40
Philadelphia clerk of courts election, 1959[20]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Louis Amarando 404,940 56.17 -8.63
Republican Daniel Cooperman 316,026 43.83 +8.63
Philadelphia register of wills election, 1959[20]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic John E. Walsh, Jr. 406,163 56.39 -8.66
Republican Fred C. Gartner 314,127 43.61 +8.66

See also


  1. ^ a b c Change is the change over his special election victory in 1962.
  2. ^ a b Change is the change over his special election victory in 1960.




  • Bulletin Almanac 1964. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The Philadelphia Bulletin. 1964. OCLC 8641470.
  • Freedman, Robert L. (1963). A Report on Politics in Philadelphia. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Joint Center for Urban Studies of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. OCLC 1690059.
  • Office of the City Representative (1962). Decade of Progress: The story of Philadelphia, 1952–1961. Division of Public Information, Office of the City Representative. OCLC 11471789.
  • Reichly, James (1959). The Art of Government: Reform and Organization Politics in Philadelphia. New York, New York: Fund for The Republic. OCLC 994205.


  • "GOP Selects 2 in Council Races". The Philadelphia Inquirer. September 22, 1962. p. 5 – via
  • Miller, Joseph H. (February 28, 1963a). "ADA Names Phillips for Mayor Race". The Philadelphia Inquirer. pp. 1, 42 – via
  • "Tate Leaves, Foes Open Fire". The Philadelphia Inquirer. April 4, 1963. p. 1 – via
  • "Green and Tate Assail Foes in Mayoralty Race". The Philadelphia Inquirer. May 16, 1963. p. 6 – via
  • Miller, Joseph H. (May 22, 1963b). "Regulars Score Easy Victories". The Philadelphia Inquirer. pp. 1, 5 – via
  • Miller, Joseph H. (May 23, 1963c). "Protest Votes Spur Democrats and GOP To Mend Party Rifts". The Philadelphia Inquirer. pp. 1, 4 – via
  • Miller, Joseph H. (May 24, 1963d). "Democrats Declare War on ADA; Phillips to Fight Tate in Fall". The Philadelphia Inquirer. pp. 1, 12 – via
  • Miller, Joseph H. (September 29, 1963e). "AFL-CIO Backs Tate; He's Called Saboteur". The Philadelphia Inquirer. p. 7 – via
  • Miller, Joseph H. (November 3, 1963f). "Photo-Finish Predicted in Mayoralty Race Here". The Philadelphia Inquirer. p. 1 – via
  • Miller, Joseph H. (November 6, 1963g). "Tate Elected by 66,000-Vote Margin". The Philadelphia Inquirer. pp. 1, 3 – via
  • Goulden, Joseph C. (November 6, 1963). "2 Democrats Ousted, GOP Gains One Council Seat". The Philadelphia Inquirer. p. 5 – via
  • "Phila. Election at a Glance". The Philadelphia Inquirer. November 7, 1963 – via
  • Coakley, Michael B.; Wagenveld, Mark (May 28, 1983). "Tate Is Dead at 73". The Philadelphia Inquirer. pp. 1-A, 4-A – via