If Jonathan Saidel succeeds in his return to the world of politics, the audience for PCN's televised coverage of Pennsylvania Senate floor sessions should swell.

Saidel, the former city controller and born comic, drew a couple hundred people to a fundraiser that doubled as a celebration of his 58th birthday Wednesday night at the Philadelphia Zoo. Serenading Saidel with a chorus of “Happy Birthday” outside the Rare Animal Conservation Center, the crowd chipped in $80,000 toward his campaign for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor in 2010.

The chief constitutional obligation of the LG, of course, is to preside over the Senate – a dry duty, except perhaps with the gavel in Saidel’s hands. He’s famous in Philadelphia for being a monster campaigner and cracking jokes.

“He’s a stand up guy, and he will bring a lot of humor to Harrisburg,” Councilman Frank DiCicco said, introducing Saidel, for whom he served as a campaign driver 20 years ago.

"I have to lift this up, Frank," Saidel said, adjusting the microphone after the diminutive DiCicco. "It's very sad – such a big man in such a little body." He went on to praise the crowd for its diversity, joking that the large contingent of Irish Americans was only there for the beer.

But seriously, folks…Saidel said he misses public service. He told a story from his last days as controller, helping an elderly woman reduce her gas bill by straightening out a billing error. "She kissed my hand and said 'Thank you,'" Saidel said. "All the money in the world is not equivalent to that thank you."

Saidel was controller for 16 years, but did not seek reelection in 2005 because he was preparing to run for mayor. In the end he stood aside for U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (D.,Pa.) in the 2007 primary.

Allegheny County Democratic Chairman Jim Burn flew in for the event, which was also attended by Democratic elected officials from all four suburban counties, as well as a raft of Philadelphia notables, including state Sen. Larry Farnese and Councilmen Bill Green and William K. Greenlee. Organized labor officials from throughout the region also were well represented.

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