Clarke waffles, Milton Street commits to Philly mayor’s race

     T. Milton Street, a brother of former Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street, leaves U.S. District Court in Philadelphia in November 2006.  (AP file photo)

    T. Milton Street, a brother of former Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street, leaves U.S. District Court in Philadelphia in November 2006. (AP file photo)

    It’s been two weeks since Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke told Marty Moss-Coane on “Radio Times” he knew it was time to make up his mind about whether to enter the 2015 mayor’s race.


    “I’ve been looking at the possibility. Do I have to make a decision of some sort soon? Absolutely,” Clarke said. “And we’ve indicated that by the first of the year, we’re going to have some sort of a conversation.”

    It wasn’t an ironclad promise, maybe, but it sure seemed he meant to have this figured out by now.

    If he does, he isn’t saying.

    I’ve always thought he wouldn’t do it — this isn’t something to embark on half-heartedly — but Clarke’s fundraising ability and high profile make him the one candidate who can get in late and make it a run. The deadline for entering is March 10.

    Milton is back

    Meanwhile, some other candidates are saying they’re in. By far the most colorful is T. Milton Street, former state senator and an ex-con, having served time for failing to file tax returns on income earned while his brother, John, was mayor.

    I caught up with Street, and he said, yes, he plans to run. He won’t have a ton of money, but figures he doesn’t need  it.

    “You understand that if I move the poor, and I can get the poor to the polls, there’s nobody can trump their numbers,” Street told me.

    Always engaging, Street told me how he would appeal to communities beset by crime with an “I’m a snitch” campaign. Street is 75, but says he has the health of a man in his 50s.

    Political insiders may not take Street seriously, but it’s worth remembering that he pulled 36,000 votes in a largely under-the-radar campaign against incumbent Mayor Michael Nutter four years ago. That was good for 24 percent of the vote in an uncompetitive, low-turnout primary election.

    For a sense of scale, Street’s 36,000 votes amount to 12.6 percent of the votes cast in the highly competitive mayoral primary of 2007, won by Nutter.

    The point: It’s hard to imagine Street winning, but he could have an impact, perhaps taking some black support away from state Sen. Anthony Williams, so far the only African-American in the race.

    And there’s more

    Another African-American, Philadelphia Gas Works vice president Doug Oliver, looks like he’s in, too, as a Democrat. Oliver, who has mounted an exploratory effort in recent months, told me those conversations have convinced him to take the leap.

    “It became clear that people weren’t really going to fully invest [in a campaign] while I had two feet at PGW,” Oliver said. “And so, there was a sense that I had to move first, and so we’re prepared to do it.”

    So Oliver said he’ll quit his job and plan a campaign announcement. He’s largely unknown to voters, but thinks that at age 40, he can connect with Philadelphians who want new ideas.

    Also in the mix are two other announced candidates: attorney Ken Trujillo, who may or may not put a couple million bucks into the race, and former District Attorney Lynne Abraham, who brings name recognition and some genuine charisma to the contest.

    With the departure Friday of former city economic development official Terry Gillen, Abraham is now the only woman in the race. It will be interesting to see if Emily’s List, the national feminist group gets interested in the Abraham campaign. The group used to just endorse federal candidates, but it now helps local candidates as well.

    Emily’s List can bring serious bucks to a campaign, and it endorsed  Christine Quinn  in the New York City mayor’s race. My call to the organization’s national spokeswoman wasn’t returned.

    Gillen, by the way, is the kind of candidate Emily’s List might well have supported if she were the only woman in the race. Her withdrawal because of the tough fundraising climate was a sound personal decision, but one which will deprive the race of some real policy insight and experience.

    One other hopeful, former Judge Nelson Diaz, says he’ll formally announce his candidacy a week from Thursday.

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