The wrong number

    Strange times. Three out of every four African Americans polled by Franklin & Marshall College said Philadelphia’s African-American mayor does not deserve to be re-elected.

    This is what former mayor John Street has been telling me and anyone else who will listen, and doubtless a part of what induced his brother Milton Street to declare he’ll run for mayor.

    The same poll found 62 percent of white voters think Mayor Nutter deserves re-election, which leaves him with a pretty anemic overall showing, but so far not anemic enough for anybody with heft to enter the race (get the PDF of the poll summary here).

    Media consultant Neil Oxman, who’s working for Nutter’s re-election effort, told me mayors everywhere are unpopular these days.

    “There’s no money,” Oxman said. “Everyone’s angry about service cuts and scared about their own financial situation, and they want to blame somebody.”

    True enough, but that doesn’t mean the mayors affected by that anger can’t be tossed out of office, as Washington, D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty found out last fall.

    But there’s an old political saying: You can’t beat somebody with nobody, and so far nobody recognized as a potent challenger has emerged.

    Millionaire and past mayoral candidate Tom Knox is still out of the country, but when last contacted was still hinting he might challenge Nutter as an independent in the fall.

    Three-time candidate Sam Katz doesn’t look runnerish, but it will be interesting to see if he changes his registration to Republican later this year, just to preserve the option of jumping in as a Republican candidate in the fall.

    For that to happen the Republican party would have to get whatever candidate is selected in the May 17th primary to withdraw. So far the only announced GOP candidate is John Featherman.

    And then there’s Milton.

    The former mayor told me yesterday his brother will tap a well of resentment against Nutter. And he noted that Milton got over 10,000 votes for City Council in 2007 without much of a visible campaign.

    Will people actually vote for somebody who just got out of prison last year?

    “There have been numerous occasions in this country where people who didn’t have your typical formal kind of qualifications have run for and served well in these offices,” John Street told me.

    And he pointed out that Milton was acquitted of felony charges of fraud and tax evasion, and found guilty only of misdemeanor charges of failing to file returns.

    “He paid all of his debt to society for whatever conduct he was found guilty of, and now he’s fully qualified to run for mayor,” Street said.

    The first test will be whether Milton can get 1,000 valid signatures on his nominating petitions. John Street said that will be no problem.

    Speaking of mayors, if you haven’t followed all the drama surrounding outspoken Harrisburg mayor Linda Thompson, it’s quite a tale. In the latest episode, she’s looking for her fourth press spokesman after Chuck Ardo left, in part because of allegedly anti-gay and anti-Semitic comments from Thompson. Read about it here.

    And speaking of Harrisburg, there stirring calls for reform in the legislature, including the creation of a searchable data base to track state spending. But as our own Scott Detrow notes, you have to read the fine print.

    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.