ONLY in Philadelphia could a campaign for a Republican at-large seat on City Council prompt a three-way battle among activists and journalists in the city's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Malcolm Lazin, executive director of the Equality Forum - "a seven-day celebration of international gay culture" that starts April 25 - is endorsed by the Republican City Committee in his bid for Council at large.

Lazin's nominating petitions were challenged two weeks ago by Adam Taxin, a lawyer active in conservative politics.

Taxin, who accuses Lazin of being a "Republican in name only" and who mangled Lazin's first name into a gay slur while discussing him on Facebook, was in league with an unlikely ally: Philadelphia Gay News publisher Mark Segal.

Lazin and Segal have been engaged in a feud for ages.

Micah Mahjoubian, a political consultant and co-chair of the Liberty City Democratic Club, said that Segal asked him to pick up copies of Lazin's petitions at City Hall.

They wound up as exhibits in Taxin's challenge, which was dropped when it became clear that Lazin had enough valid signatures to stay on the ballot.

Mahjoubian said that he didn't know that Segal and Taxin were preparing the challenge.

"I signed them out and got them for [Segal]," he said. "Now, apparently, I'm part of a mass conspiracy with homophobes to challenge Malcolm Lazin. It's caused a lot of headaches."

James Duggan, editor of Queertimes.net, called last Friday for Segal and Mahjoubian to apologize "for trying to discredit one of the most respected members of our community." Duggan says that they have not responded.

In his story, Duggan said that Taxin confirmed having worked with Segal on the challenge. Taxin copied Segal when he emailed comments to Queertimes, Duggan added.

Taxin didn't feel so free to share this week. He said that his attorney "advised me that there's really not much to gain from my commenting any further."

Segal refused to comment.

Lazin also saw no upside in continuing the fight this week.

"I wish Mark well," he said while declining to comment on what motivated the challenge.

Nutter polling on Tasco, Street

Mayor Nutter's polling firm, Peter D. Hart Research Associates, was calling city voters this week and, judging from the questions, it sounds as if he has two issues on his mind right now:

Should he publicly support Councilwoman Marian Tasco's bid to become the next Council president?

And should he run negative ads about T. Milton Street, the former state legislator and ex-con who is his rival in the May 17 Democratic primary election?

Tasco was mentioned by name, along with the controversial Deferred Retirement Option Plan, according to a person who was polled. Tasco is set to receive a $478,057 DROP payment and retire for at least one day on Dec. 30, and then return to the city payroll if she wins reelection.

Tasco, who last week defeated a legal challenge to keep her off the ballot because of her DROP participation, could be damaged goods if Council is populated next year by a bunch of new faces who campaigned against the program.

The poll also asked at least four questions about Street's potential liabilities, like how he just served 26 months in federal custody for not paying taxes. Voters were also asked about Street's past residency in New Jersey.

Street defeated a residency challenge filed by Nutter that claimed that Street's time in prison and in New Jersey made him ineligible to appear on the ballot this year.

The Clout Line: Mayor 2011

The Clout Line, in which we ask five locals who have toiled on Democratic and Republican mayoral elections to estimate the odds for the four candidates for mayor in the May 17 primary election, produced some surprising news this week

T. Milton Street, former state senator and ex-con, surged to a lead while our experts dismissed the GOP candidates in favor of a surprise write-in option.

This week's odds:

DEMOCRATS

Mayor Nutter: 10 percent

T. Milton Street: 90 percent

REPUBLICANS

John Featherman: 5 percent

Karen Brown: 5 percent

Donald Trump: 90 percent

Disclaimer: Clout Line wishes all a very happy April Fools' Day.

Quotable:

"Should the @PhillyDailyNews apologize for creating such a violent image of the schools chief in the midst of a series on school violence?"

- @PhillyEducation, the Twitter account for the Philadelphia School District communications staff, which spent three hours yesterday whining about yesterday's cover of the Daily News, which depicted Superintendent Arlene Ackerman taking a chainsaw to the district budget.

Staff writer Catherine Lucey contributed to this report.

Have tips or suggestions? Call Chris Brennan at 215-854-5973 or email

brennac@phillynews.com.

Check out the Clout blog at:

www.phillyclout.com.