The knock-Knox movement picked up steam yesterday with three Democratic primary rivals criticizing mayoral front-runner Tom Knox.
State Rep. Dwight Evans slammed Knox's record on public safety, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady criticized an insurance company Knox once owned and Michael Nutter took a shot at Knox's brief tenure as a deputy mayor.
Fighting back, Knox put a new ad up on his Web site yesterday in which he says he's a victim of "last-minute attacks and smears."
Evans held a news conference across the street from Wendy's at 15th and Chestnut streets. In a nod to the burger chain's old "Where's the beef?" television advertisements, Evans said that his record was "beefy" while Knox's was not.
"How can he have a crime plan when it's clear to me he has no record?" said Evans.
Evans handed out empty hamburger buns for emphasis and displayed two posters. One showed his own achievements on public safety, ranging from pushing for the hiring of John Timoney as police commissioner to getting state funding for anti-crime efforts. The poster on Knox showed only a petition drive he led in support of gun-control legislation.
Evans said that Knox's TV ads "particularly when he starts talking about fighting crime, are misleading and should be taken off the air."
Knox put out a prepared statement via e-mail saying: "Philadelphia residents want a new direction, because they're not very happy with the old one. When I'm mayor, I intend to turn the city around, and I hope Dwight Evans will continue to work for us in Harrisburg."
Brady also tried to wound Knox.
Brady told reporters outside a fire station at 21st and Market streets that he was concerned that if Knox is elected mayor, he might require Philadelphia residents to call their doctor before they could call 911 or visit a hospital emergency room.
In fact, Knox hasn't suggested anything of the sort.
But it was a way for Brady to call attention to a $70,000 fine levied by Maryland insurance authorities in 2002 against a company Knox owned, Fidelity Insurance Group. Among other violations, the regulators cited Fidelity's instructions to policyholders that they should call a primary-care physician before visiting an emergency room.
"Sometimes delay can be deadly," Brady said. "That's why I was outraged by Tom Knox putting his bottom line ahead of helping people. . . . We can't afford to risk lives for the bottom line."
In fact, Knox has said nothing on the campaign trail about requiring a doctor's permission to call 911. On a related issue, Knox and Brady have the same position: The city should establish a 311 number that citizens could call to report nonemergencies such as potholes or missing street lights.
Knox's campaign manager, Josh Morrow, said Knox was not personally involved in the emergency-room restrictions to which the Maryland authorities objected.
"What happened was, an employee without authorization put it in a newsletter," Morrow said. "In no way was it Tom's policy."
Nutter's main appearance yesterday was a news conference to announce his endorsement by Philadelphia magazine. But after the event, he did briefly join the Knox criticism.
"I actually have a record," he said. "He's got a TV record; I've got a public record."
Nutter added, "I came into government at the same time [as Knox.] I attended every budget hearing this city ever had. . . . I never saw Tom Knox." *