When former Philadelphia Mayor John Street walked into the city commissioner’s office yesterday and changed his voter registration from Democrat to non-partisan, it created such a buzz that I got two phone calls and an email about it, and I wasn’t even working that day. Street has issued a cryptic explanation about keeping certain options open. I imagine him sending Mayor Nutter a message – something like this:
To: Mayor Michael Nutter
From: John Street
So you thought you were free and clear, for re-election, didn’t you? You had only my eccentric brother Milton to pester you in the primary, and no Republican of consequence to worry about in the general election.
So you were free to blow most of your campaign fund on racking up a convincing margin over the penniless Milton, and maybe putting serious money into some City Council races so you’ll have some new friends in Council chambers come January.
Well think again.
When I was mayor and you were in Council, you spent a little piece of every day thinking of some way to torment me, didn’t you? Now you have the big office, and you can wonder what I’m up to.
You’re thinking I can’t win running against you as an independent, and you’re probably right. But are you sure I wouldn’t decide to have a go anyway, so you don’t have a cake walk? What have I got to lose? I’m semi-retired, plenty of time on my hands. The media would love it, so I’d get plenty of attention. And if you look over my career, you’ll notice I rarely suffered from a lack of nerve.
I won’t run as a Republican, by the way, even though it’s long been a dream of Philly GOP leaders to run a well-known African-American who could steal votes from the Democratic base.
But there is Tom Knox to consider. Sure, he’s made something of a joke of himself. Within days, he goes from planning to run against you in the primary to endorsing you for re-election, and now he says he’s changed his registration so he can run in case Milton wins? Sure it sounds nutty, but he has the money to wage a serious campaign on a whim if he wants to. To quote Dennis Hopper from the movie Speed when Keanu Reeves calls him crazy, “poor people are crazy, Jack. I’m eccentric.”
So do you think you should try and keep some campaign cash in the vault in case something crazy happens? You know the way the city’s campaign finance law works, contribution limits are imposed on an annual basis, rather than an election cycle like practically every other campaign finance law. So any contributors who maxed out to you before the primary are off-limits for the general, since that election occurs within the same election year (a handful of critics, including that annoying Davies, have urged you and Council to change that provision, but somehow you never got to it).
I don’t have any advice for you, but it should be fun to see how all this unfolds. I’ve got to go now. I have lesson plans for my Temple class to work on – which I really enjoy, by the way – and Naomi and I are considering some summer travel plans.
I just wanted to give you a few things to think about.