It doesn’t get more Philadelphia than the scene at the Franklin Institute at high noon Wednesday as Lynne Abraham, the former district attorney, launched her campaign for mayor.
As required of all events in real Philadelphia, the moment featured a Mummers string band playing songs from those movies about a fictional boxer. Here’s what else happened:
1. To enter the room, supporters had to check in at a greeting table, where they were dutifully provided with “Lynne Abraham for Mayor” stickers. The sign indicating where media members should go read “Press Enterance” (sic).
2. Two-time Republican mayoral candidate Sam Katz was among the crowd of roughly 200 people who filled seats and lined the room’s walls.
3. The Polish American String Band entertained the crowd before Abraham was introduced by longtime friend Michael Sklaroff. People clapped and sang along with the group about whom Abraham asked, “Is there anything more quintessentially Philadelphian?” Well, they played “Gonna Fly Now” as Abraham enteranced the room and after she closed her speech. There is nothing more quintessentially Philadelphian than that.
4. Sklaroff maintained that both the Franklin Institute and his favorite mayoral candidate represented “Philadelphia at its best.” He was not asked whether one was more-best than the other. Call it a draw.
5. He also namechecked the late former Mayor Frank Rizzo within the opening syllables of his introductory speech. The context: He described Abraham as standing up to that almost-mythological Philadelphia entity whom few people dared to challenge.
6. In a subtle nod to racial-demographic realities of Philadelphia mayoral politics, Sklaroff noted that Abraham has been to rallies, community meetings and even funerals in every Philly neighborhood. She was also respected by African-American judges when she served on the bench, he said.
7. In an oratorical version of a subtweet, he noted that a “political operative [with another campaign] warned her not to get into the race” because ward politics had already been decided to the point of ensuring an Abraham loss. “It will get ugly,” Sklaroff said of that warning. “Well, we’re here today and that campaign folded two days ago.” Hmm, wonder who that could’ve been. (Hint.)
8. Upon taking the mic, Abraham apologized to the overflow crowd out in the Franklin Institute hallway. She picked out a couple open chairs before her and invited a “couple small people” to come on in. “You have to take care of” potential voters, she said with a wink-nudge inflection.
9. Abraham listed demographics for which she would not be the ideal mayoral candidate. They included “protectors of the status quo,” those who think things are “going really well” and that “schools are good enough” in the city or residents pleased with the city’s current leadership.
11. The Franklin Institute was the perfect place to launch the campaign, she said, because of the “heart and brain just two floors above us.” Also, because Ben Franklin is the “greatest Philadelphian” ever. Also, she recalled a class trip from her youth led by a “small, tiny, little man wearing a bowtie” that got her interested in stars to the point that she’d sneak out of the house around 4 a.m. with a star-chart book until her father painted constellations on her bedroom ceiling. The moral of that story? Something “that all good moms and dads do for their kids: They inspire them.”
12. Education is, obviously, a campaign-platform focus for Abraham. In discussing it, she referenced a recent “60 Minutes” piece about parents near Asuncion, Paraguay, who fashioned items found in festering trash heaps into musical instruments for their children. Apparently, the kids have become a great orchestra because of this. ‘Twas a real-life parable, wethinks.
13. How does she envision the job she’s certain she’ll win? “A strong CEO of Philadelphia Inc.” Nobody from CEO to lowest rung on the management flow chart would be permitted to “accept a gift of any value.” The CEO would also lobby Harrisburg hard for the ability to offer developers a “20-year tax abatement.”
14. “I love to get into a Philly cab,” she said when the issue of immigration was broached. It afforded her a chance to encounter a “Bangladeshi. A man from Egypt. [Drivers] from who knows where? All over the globe. And, I say to myself, ‘What a great country.'”
15. As Philadelphia’s first female mayor, she would open an “Office of Family Violence” to help women and children who face poverty, abuse, neglect and domestic violence.
16. Abraham closed her launch announcement by discussing Julius Caesar, the play by William Shakespeare “who always has something great to say. I just love him.” Then, she repeated the mantra “Why not?” several times and walked off stage to, you got it, a Mummers rendition of a Rocky song.