Former Philadelphia mayor John Street might run for City Council?
Many of us reported earlier this week that hizzoner had changed his party registration from Democrat to independent to preserve some political options. We all assumed that might be a run for mayor in the fall, and Street didn’t rule it out.
But the ever-alert Chris Brennan of the Daily News reports that Street is mulling a run for City Council at-large, which is a fascinating prospect.
As Brennan notes, we’re used to seeing two Republicans among Council’s seven at-large members, because the charter permits voters to choose only five representatives and parties get to nominate only five, while the top seven vote-getters are elected.
But they don’t have to be Republicans. It could be the top Republican and John Street, former mayor, former Council President.
Three thoughts occur:
1. The numbers in Council at-large elections make this seem doable. Street wouldn’t have to get anywhere close to the vote a Democrat gets to win a Council at-large spot. He only has to beat the second most potent Republican candidate.
In 2007, that was Jack Kelly, who got in with a little more than 61,000 votes, less than six percent of those voting. You’d think a candidate of Street’s stature and name recognition could manage that.
But remember that Kelly started with the Republican base, such as it is. Street’s base is overwhelmingly Democratic, and the other Democratic incumbents will compete fiercely for those votes.
2. If Street were to seek and win a Council seat, he would become a leader. I’ve watched that body for a long time, and the leaders are people who can tell other members what to do and how not to look stupid when they’re confronting a difficult issue. Given Street’s knowledge and experience in city government, there’s no way he wouldn’t be a player on every significant issue.
And while he has a reputation among some as an angry and arrogant man, he proved himself a skilled inside player when he was in Council. He knew how to make alliances and put votes together.
I’ll never forget the period after the 1991 election, when Ed Rendell had won the mayor’s race and was prepared to back someone besides Street for Council President. Street produced signed commitments from enough Council members to put him the president’s office before anyone else was seriously game-planning. You underestimate Street at your peril.
I doubt he’d seek the presidency again, and doubt he could win it. But if he were a member of Council, he wouldn’t be a back-bencher.
3. All that said, I don’t think Street will run. He enjoys his semi-retired life of teaching and traveling, and it would be a come-down to be a Council member after occupying the dizzying heights of local power he’s seen. And Street is a proud man.
Give him credit, though. He knows how to get us yakking about him.