Former Gov. Ed Rendell made his first major public endorsement this election, announcing his support for City Council hopeful Paul Steinke.

Steinke, the former manager of Reading Terminal Market, and one-time head of the Center City District and University City District, is one of 17 Democrats vying for five at-large seats. Rendell stood with Steinke inside the crowded market during today's lunchtime rush, calling him an "agent for change."

"It's not easy to beat incumbents in this city, where name recognition is so important. This is an uphill fight," Rendell said. "But I think we need change - we need change in City Council - there's some good people on City Council but City Council's performance on things like the PGW contract...it hurt the city and we need to bring in someone who sees the broader view."

Rendell worked with Steinke when Steinke was financial director of the Center City District in the early 90s. The group, along with the administration, helped address Center City's trash collection problems, Rendell said. Then at the helm of the University City district, Steinke helped unite campus and city police and parents and students during a crime wave at the University of Pennsylvania.

At Reading Terminal, which was decked out in Steinke campaign signs Monday, Rendell credited Steinke's work over 13 years particularly convincing merchants to expand operations to Sunday.

"He persuaded them and now Sunday is one of the most lucrative days for the marketplace and it also helps our tourism," Rendell said.

Rendell emphasized the importance of the City Council race this year. He said his PAC would be donating to Steinke's campaign, though he did not disclose how much the contribution would be for.

"There's a lot of emphasis placed on the mayor and the mayoral election and that's obviously an important election but during my eight years as mayor… I couldn't have done it without a good City Council, without a City Council willing to take risks, without a City Council that had courage."

Rendell said he's also supporting Center City realtor Allan Domb, in the crowded race but would probably not be endorsing any other at-large candidates. He said he's backing incumbent Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez in her Seventh District race. He has yet to publicly endorse a mayoral candidate.

If elected, Steinke, 51, would be the first openly gay person elected to City Council. Sherrie Cohen, an attorney and longtime LGBT activist, is also openly gay. She was endorsed by the Democratic City Committee along with all four incumbent Democrats.

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