BAM, POW, ZAP!

That was the sound of U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah as he tried to beat down fellow mayoral candidate Michael Nutter last night at a live mayoral forum on WPVI (Channel 6).

"The question is: Where is the former councilman's passion for the plight of those in our city who are jobless?" asked the combative Fattah to Nutter, who has surged past him in several recent polls. "We need to have someone who is mayor who is focused on the broad issues of the day."

Later in the debate Nutter noted: "I thought this was the Channel 6/Tribune debate, not the WWF smackdown."

After the lively session Fattah, who in the past has avoided making negative attacks, made no apologies, saying, "If I offended the darling of the media, I'm sorry, but this is a debate on the future of the city."

Channel 6 news anchor Jim Gardner moderated the debate, held in the main auditorium at Drexel University. Philadelphia Tribune managing editor Irv Randolph and Channel 6 reporter Vernon Odom appeared as panelists.

Drexel, the Tribune and the League of Women Voters sponsored the event.

Last night's showdown was the first of three live televised debates or forums in the last days of the race. Tomorrow night, WHYY will host a forum sponsored by The Next Mayor, a partnership between the Daily News, the Committee of Seventy and WHYY. And Monday, NBC 10 will air a debate hosted by Chris Matthews.

Also in the debate, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady and state Rep. Dwight Evans came down on businessman Tom Knox, who has poured his personal millions into his campaign.

Evans noted Knox's lack of a record on public safety while Brady said Knox had donated to Republican candidates.

Knox said that his wife was a Republican and that his own donations to Democrats vastly outweighed her contributions to politicians like President Bush.

But Fattah dominated the event, repeatedly speaking about his plans to combat poverty and criticizing Nutter, suggesting that he didn't share his passion for fighting poverty or improving public education.

"I know Michael Nutter," Fattah said. "He's a great guy, he's hardworking. We know what his passion is. We know he wants to clean up government. I want to know how we are supposed to expect at this point that he has a passion for education. Why hasn't it been demonstrated over the past 15 years?"

Nutter responded: "Anyone who has a child in any school in a district I've represented knows that I have a passion for public education."

Nutter did not strike back at Fattah and during a portion of the debate when the candidates were given the opportunity to question each other, he declined. *