TODAY CLOUT GOES from "knock Knox" to "Doc-Knox" with a challenge from

Dwight Evans

, a denial from

Mike Nutter,

some roofers on Harleys and a question about Jesus thrown in. With less than three weeks left in the mayoral primary campaign, the rumor mill has put on a third shift.

Leading off is the rumor that John Dougherty, former Democratic Party treasurer and head of Local 98 of the electricians' union, will employ his field army for Tom Knox on Election Day.

"Between either hired guns or Local 98 people, we'll have a 5,000-person operation on the street for Election Day," says Dougherty, who's been honing his field op since it marched for Mayor Street in 1999.

Dougherty wouldn't 'fess up on the Knox connection, but his split with mayoral rival Bob Brady last year makes the Doc-Knox tie a logical conclusion. Knox spokesman Josh Morrow says they're not worried about Brady's ability, as head of the party, to field an army of party committee people on Election Day. "We have close to 2,500 volunteers who've responded to our message," Morrow said.

"They're committed to the cause, and I'd put up our 2,500 against the paid operatives of any of these other guys any day of the week."

Sounds like they could use Doc's help.

"We're welcoming anyone who wants to come into our tent," Morrow said.

And if the Doc-Knox alliance wins on May 15, can an attempt to unseat Brady as party chairman be far behind? While Brady has pledged to back Knox if he wins, Knox offers no such assurance for Brady's chairmanship.

"The last thing we're thinking about is who is going to be party chair," said Knox aide Morrow.

Says Brady about his possible ouster: "I've been hearing that every time a new mayor comes into place, and I've been through four of them. I'm not worried."

Evans challenges Knox to debate

State Rep. Evans would be happy to come into Knox's tent, for a debate about crime and gun violence.

"I challenge Tom Knox to debate this issue any time, any place," Evans told us yesterday.

Evans jumped on Knox's case after Knox ran a TV ad that linked himself to Evans on the crime issue, implying their credentials were equal.

Evans, who has delivered money and legislation to fight crime, plus forced the state House to hold a special session on the issue, resented Knox's attempt to ride his coattails.

"The only thing Knox did was circulate a petition to support a gun-control bill I sponsored," Evans said.

Knox declined the challenge.

"There are five candidates in the race," said spokesman Josh Morrow. "We have a debate on Monday, and we can talk about violence and gun crime then."

Nutter: No to Republicans

When former Republican mayoral candidate Sam Katz switched his voter registration to nonpartisan, speculation that he might run in November as an independent was inevitable.

Perhaps also inevitable, now that Katz has left the party, is the speculation that Democratic mayoral candidate Michael Nutter might run on the Republican ticket in November.

After all, didn't Nutter get an award from a suburban Republican-oriented business group? He did. Didn't some top local Republicans try to woo him to run this spring? They did.

So, how about it, any chance Nutter might switch if the GOP nominee (Al Taubenberger) were to step aside this fall?

"No. I am a proud Democrat and working very hard to win the primary on May 15," Nutter said.

Also working hard: Daughter Olivia, whose TV ad for her pop caused on-line donations to the Nutter campaign to rise. From April 13, the first day the ad aired, to April 19, the campaign pulled in $35,519. The previous week drew only $6,655.

Could that also account for the nice pop Nutter got in the poll reported on Page 9 today?

Jesus lied?

Jesus White, Superstar,

Do you think you're what you say you are?

Jesus White, Philadelphia's first homeless candidate for mayor, has an impressive resume in his campaign literature.

He distributes postcards saying he has served DeRidder, La., as city manager, mayor pro tem and president of city council, among other achievements.

But public officials there say that White - who used the name James Bolden when he lived in the area - never held any of those jobs.

"Our city clerk has researched it and I've talked with the president of the city council, who's been on the city council for more than 32 years," said DeRidder Mayor Ron Roberts. "They are adamant that Mister White or Mister Bolden has never been on the city council; he has never been mayor pro tem. He has never been city manager; he has never been police chief. "

White also claims he holds both an undergraduate and a law degree from Southern University, in Baton Rouge. A law- school spokeswoman said that a James Bolden Jr. was granted a law degree in the early 1990s, but he was about 15 years younger than White would have been and had gone to a different college as an undergraduate.

White yesterday insisted his postcards are accurate. The university's records are in error, he said, and the officials from DeRidder are mistaken.

Roofers with Harleys

OK, when you've invited a gaggle of candidates ranging from mayor on down to speak to your union membership and the place suddenly goes pitch-dark in a power outage, what do you do?

Well, if it's a meeting of the roofers union, you bring in five or six of your guys' Harleys and turn on the headlights.

That's how top guy Mike O'Malley kept the meeting going one night earlier this week.

Political eyesores

L&I Commissioner Bob Solvibile has already warned candidates that they can't be plastering political posters on utility poles, street-lights, traffic poles, or trees in the right-of-way.

But like spring weeds, those illegal signs have been sprouting up this week.

"In the last week it just really got hot and heavy," Solvibile said.

By early yesterday after just three days of enforcement, L&I had issued 375 violations for illegal signs. At $75 per sign, that's $28,125.

Solvibile declined to identify the miscreants, but he did describe one sign that was briefly popping up in the Northeast on highway rights-of-way.

"It had a stop sign in it and it referred to stopping corruption. But putting that along the highway, now that's not too bright," he said. *

Staff writers Gar Joseph, Bob Warner, Dave Davies and Catherine Lucey contributed to this report.