Philadelphia will play a key role in selecting the next governor, but the local campaign trail has seen less traffic than it did during the May primary election.
Both Democrat Ed Rendell and Republican Mike Fisher have made the obligatory stops, but where are the meet-and-greets at the local union halls and handshaking sessions at the senior center to squeeze out those last votes just days before the election?
The prevailing feeling in both camps is that Rendell has Philly wrapped up, and both candidates are focusing on other parts of the state. As evidence, the Fisher camp recently changed campaign strategy by buying less airtime on local television stations. (The new ad the attorney general is running in the Pittsburgh area even disses the cheesesteak.)
The candidates are still spending big bucks, though. Rendell reportedly will spend $35 million, the most ever in a Pennsylvania governor’s election. And Fisher is no cheapskate. He will have doled out $15 million by Tuesday, the most spent in state history by a Republican uncontested in the primary.
And while the focus of Fisher’s campaign has shifted away from Philadelphia, the local GOP leadership says it is still trying to get out the vote. Vito Canuso, the city Republican Party president, said staff members are making phone calls to register GOPers, and committeepeople will be deployed on the streets to encourage people to vote on Election Day.
"[Fisher] has to get the Republican base out here, regardless of what numbers Rendell generates," Canuso said.
The candidate still will not win in Philadelphia, Canuso admitted, but added he is not discouraged.
"Every candidate has a home base, a neighborhood, a constituency that you are not going to overcome," he said. "I’m just shocked that [Fisher] is not doing as well as I thought he was going to do."
Rendell has support even in the city’s few Republican strongholds, like Center City and Chestnut Hill, Canuso said.
"There is no doubt about it that Eddie made Philadelphians feel better about being Philadelphians," he said. "But we know the school system did not improve while he was mayor. The taxes did not improve. He made minor cuts while he had increases in other areas. He didn’t bring about the cuts in taxes that people could really benefit by."
Despite the quiet campaign, voters say they will go to the polls on Nov. 5. In an informal poll, the vast majority said they will pull the lever for Rendell.
Jean Tini, of the 1500 block of Forrestal Street, said she supports Rendell because of his record as mayor.
"I think he will have a major impact. We need it," she said. "I think he will do a good job. I wish he were still the mayor."
Manuel Kitano shared similar feelings and added that the former mayor saved the city from bankruptcy.
"I think Rendell did a great job for the city," said Kitano, of Ninth and Shunk streets. "I feel confident he will do a good job for Pennsylvania."
He also said he was impressed with the support Rendell is getting from some local Republicans. One of them is Scott Cleary, who said he tends to support Republican candidates, but won’t be backing Fisher.
"I saw what Rendell did in Philadelphia," said Cleary, who works on the 1500 block of Warfield Street. "Mike Fisher hasn’t done enough to show what he can bring to the table."
Cleary also believes Rendell is moderate enough to work the Republican-dominated state assembly, and thinks the former mayor will attract businesses to the state.
Fisher and Rendell are both campaigning for economic development and cutting business taxes. Fisher is promising to eliminate the capital stock and franchise tax by 2009 and lower the corporate net income tax to bring it closer to the national average. He is also campaigning to cut the city’s wage tax and control spending at the state level, among other reforms
Rendell’s plan includes reductions to the state business taxes, government investment in the private sector, and clearing and redeveloping blighted land around the state.
Maria Taylor, from the 2500 block of Oakford Street, is also a Rendell booster. She said she is confident he will keep promises to improve education and help seniors with a prescription drug plan.
Rendell has said he would raise revenue by placing slot machines at the state’s four horse tracks and increasing the cigarette tax. He also is promising to expand the state lottery system and appeal to the federal government to assist the state’s drug plan.
If he were governor, Fisher said, the state wold "spend smarter" — not more — on education and implement a system for teacher accountability. Fisher also wants to put slot machines in racetracks. He is promising to use 100 percent of the revenue from those machines for the state’s prescription drug plan.
Making a run for it
Some of the familiar names on the ballot in state and national races face no opponents, but others will have a challenger on Election Day.
Incumbents in Italics
U.S. Representative, First District
Marie G. Delany, Republican
* Frankford resident. Founder and executive director of Overington House, a transitional residence for homeless women with children.
Robert A. Brady, Democrat
* Seeking second full term after replacing Tom Foglietta in May 1998. Chairman of the Philadelphia Democratic Party.
Mike Ewall, Green Party
* Board member of the Pennsylvania Environmental Network.
U.S. Representative, Second District
Thomas G. Dougherty, Republican
* Roxborough resident.
Chaka Fattah, Democrat
* Member of House Appropriations Committee. Campaigning for fifth term.
State Senate, Eighth District
John P. McKellingott, Republican
* Lansdowne resident, attorney
Anthony H. Williams, Democrat
* Supports neighborhood improvement and education initiatives. Seeking second term.
State Representative, 175th District
Marie Lederer, Democrat
* Fishtown resident. District recently expanded to include Queen Village.
State Representative, 182nd District
Jonathan S. Goldstein, Republican
* Ran as a Libertarian for the same seat in 1998.
Babette Josephs, Democrat
* Supports women’s rights and gun control. Has held seat since 1985.
State Representative, 184th District
William Keller, Democrat
* Unchallenged on way to sixth consecutive term.
State Representative, 185th District
Michael C. Gallagher, Republican
* Leader of Ward 40-A in Southwest Philly.
Robert C. Donatucci, Democrat
* Record of addressing quality-of-life issues. Seeking 12th term.
State Representative, 186th District
Harold James, Democrat
* One of the most consistent advocates of civil-rights issues in the House. Seeking eighth term.
–by R. Jonathan Tuleya