Brett Mandel, Republican?

    Brett Mandel, darling of progressive Democrats and persistent critic of Mayor Nutter is being courted by Republican leaders as a GOP candidate for mayor.

    The party’s ward leaders met last night to endorse candidates for a variety of offices, but they haven’t settled on anyone for mayor.

    I asked party chairman Vito Canuso yesterday if he was talking to Mandel.

    “We’re talking to a lot of people,” he said. “I’m just going to leave it at that.”

    The Philadelphia Republican party has a long history of running Democrats and former Democrats willing to embrace them, including Arlen Specter, Frank Rizzo (the mayor, not the Councilman) and Sam Katz.

    When I reached Mandel, he said Republicans, Democrats and independents have been urging him to run.

    “Mayor Nutter should just throw in the towel,” Mandel cracked. “I’m courted by people from his party, the other side’s party and people who don’t want a party.”

    Mandel said he was ideologically and organizationally a Democrat (he ran for city controller in the 2009 Democratic primary), but didn’t completely rule out carrying the GOP standard for mayor.

    A bigger obstacle to taking the leap, he said, is that he doubts the gumption of those who say they want to see Nutter challenged.

    “The problem is that the spirit of ‘let’s you and him fight’ is not backed up by ‘and we’ll be right there with you.'” Mandel said.

    “When I say to people, ‘If I say I’m all in tomorrow, what are you willing to do?’, the answer is a lot of feet shuffling,” Mandel said.

    He was talking less about Republicans than disgruntled Democrats here, but he said the problem in either case is that it takes real resources to make a credible campaign, and he doesn’t see Republicans coming up with much or Democrats being willing to risk much.

    “I’m very flattered the Republicans have reached out to me,” Mandel said. “Maybe that means everybody else they’ve asked is saying no.”

    Indeed the Republicans have been scouring their ranks to trying and find a candidate to run against Nutter. I hear that one reason it’s difficult is that libertarian John Featherman has announced he’ll be in the Republican mayoral primary, and no one wants to have to wage a primary campaign.

    Meanwhile, there’s also a rumor that millionaire and former candidate Tom Knox is polling this week.

    Mandel wonders if some trying to get him into the Democratic primary want him to make Nutter spend money getting the nomination, so Knox can then swoop in and run against a cash-depleted Nutter in the fall.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.