November 01, 2003

Mayor Turns U.S. Inquiry to Campaign Advantage

It is not simply the job of Mayor of Philadelphia that
is at stake here, of course. It is the 2004 electoral
votes of Pennsylvania, a state which went to Gore in
2000. Yes, it is happening in different ways all over
the country. It is indeed a "vast reich-wing
conspiracy."

New York Times: "The same forces that stopped the counting in Florida and disenfranchised voters," the Rev. Jesse Jackson said at a rally of municipal union workers on Tuesday. "Those same forces are entering into, in the same ugly way, this election in Pennsylvania."

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/31/national/31STRE.html?ex=1068618756&ei=1&en=712e2cc0eaea8d84

Keith Meyers/The New York Times
Mayor John F. Street on Wednesday in Philadelphia. He
has used a federal inquiry to energize supporters.


Mayor Turns U.S. Inquiry to Campaign Advantage
By LYNETTE CLEMETSON

Published: October 31, 2003


HILADELPHIA, Oct. 29 Mayor John F. Street regularly
begins speeches by announcing, "I'm having a great
day!"

But for much of the last three weeks, since an F.B.I.
listening device was found in his office and federal
agents' saying he is a subject in a corruption
investigation, the catch phrase has seemed less a
rallying cry than a weary and dutiful exercise in
self-affirmation.

Now, however, in the extraordinary final days of his
tumultuous re-election campaign, Mr. Street has
morphed from embattled politician into a folk hero of
sorts, and his canned opening line is rolling off his
tongue with renewed zeal.

With an eye on black voters, he and his allies have
deftly used the investigation to energize supporters
and stir debate over issues like the racial divide in
the city and the Florida recount in the 2000
presidential election.

"The same forces that stopped the counting in Florida
and disenfranchised voters," the Rev. Jesse Jackson
said at a rally of municipal union workers on Tuesday.
"Those same forces are entering into, in the same ugly
way, this election in Pennsylvania."

Such arguments appear to be winning the day. A survey
of voters released on Wednesday by the Keystone Poll,
a statewide polling service based at Franklin and
Marshall College in Lancaster, showed Mr. Street with
a 13-point lead over his opponent, Sam Katz, an
executive who lost to Mr. Street in 1999 by fewer than
10,000 votes.

"I've never experienced anything like this," Mr.
Street said of the recent atmosphere. "Neither has the
city."

Randall M. Miller, a professor of history at St.
Joseph's University here, said of the surge: "It's not
even necessarily about John Street's career. It's
about America and people's fears of a prying
government playing dirty tricks."

The federal authorities, who are investigating
municipal contracts, have indicated that the listening
device showed no incriminating evidence against Mr.
Street.

Their description of him as a subject but not a target
in the inquiry suggests that they are trying to build
a case against his associates.

For months, the investigators have sought information
on donors who received government contracts. Since the
investigation became public, the authorities have
raided municipal offices as well as contractors
aligned with the mayor.

Undeterred, prominent Democrats like Terry McAuliffe,
chairman of the Democratic National Committee, have
rushed here, casting the contest as a critical
skirmish in the larger battle to win the presidency
next fall.

Former President Bill Clinton and former Vice
President Al Gore are scheduled to stump for the mayor
before Election Day. James Carville, the Democratic
strategist, even weaved the incident into the most
recent episode of "K Street," a series on HBO that
mixes real political issues into the story of a
fictional Washington lobbying firm.

If the mayor has been tempted to gloat publicly over
the unintended effects of the controversy, he has, so
far, resisted. Still, Mr. Street is unflinchingly
self-assured.

"I have no plans to lose," he said. "I have never
entertained the thought at all."

For people who have worked with him over the years,
the defiance is not surprising.

A former hot dog vendor, Mr. Street earned a law
degree from Temple University in 1975. A community
advocate, he became a chief scourge of the City
Council, fighting the lawmakers on behalf of the poor
and disposessed.

Tired of criticizing the system from the outside, the
lawyer with the black-power Afro was elected to the
17-member council in 1979. The change in status did
not immediately translate into a change in style.
Early in his term, he became embroiled in a storied
rolling-on-the-floor fistfight with a fellow Council
member after an argument over a bill Mr. Street had
proposed to increase school financing.

Despite his grandstanding start, Mr. Street,
associates said, learned quickly that he would need
more than loud words to gain respect and power.

Posted by richard at November 1, 2003 07:43 AM