Talk about a bang-up night!
All five Democratic mayoral candidates were grilled hard last night at an NBC-10 mayoral debate - both by host Chris Matthews and each other.
The feisty exchange was the third live televised debate in three days. Panelists at the National Constitution Center were Steve Highsmith, of NBC-10; Irv Randolph, managing editor of the Philadelphia Tribune, and Brenda Jorett, anchor of "Morning Edition" on WHYY-FM.
Crime was a major focus of the conversation, particularly Michael Nutter's proposal to use "stop, question and frisk" police tactics. When the panel asked Nutter if he was concerned about the program turning into racial profiling, he said he was most concerned about the number of African- Americans being killed. He also noted: "As a person who has been black for 49 years, I think I know a little bit about [civil rights]."
A few moments later, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah - who criticized the "stop and frisk" proposal throughout the night - said, "I'm sorry the councilman has to remind himself he's an African-American," and suggested Nutter had made a "racial appeal" by mentioning slain African-Americans.
After the debate, Fattah reiterated that Nutter should abstain from mentioning race. Nutter responded, "I said what I said to re-emphasize the point that as an African-American, I've had my own experiences with civil rights."
U.S. Rep. Bob Brady also took some queries on crime - specifically how he was going to pay for the additional police officers he has promised in his safety plan.
He avoided giving any specifics.
"I'm going to give them what this city needs to be safe. How much does it cost for somebody's life? I think they're priceless," he said. "Whatever money it takes to keep this city safe, I'm going to find it."
Fattah took some heat over his plans to lease the airport and use the funds to support his anti-poverty programs. State Rep. Dwight Evans said that the numbers in the plan "don't reconcile," and Nutter suggested that Fattah might want a "Plan B."
"Some of the newspapers here have looked into it and say this is a doable transaction," Fattah said.
Fattah also said he'd be prepared to raise taxes to fund after-school programs, a part of his anti poverty effort.
After the program, he said he'd make cuts before raising taxes, but he added, "I will go as far as I need to go to make sure every teenager in our city has a place to go."
Businessman Tom Knox - who has painted himself as an outsider reform candidate - was asked about his endorsement of Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who opposed ethics-reform legislation.
"I know she's voted against it; she explained her reasons for voting against it and I accept it," Knox said.
Brady accused Knox of contributing large amounts to Democratic candidates to gain political access.
"No, you're looking for good government," said Knox, growing high-pitched. "You're telling me any time you give people money you're looking for access."
Knox then noted that Gov. Rendell had said in an interview that he would "kick butt."
"I can kick butt, and yours will be the first to go," he said to Brady. Brady then got off one of the best lines of the night when he asked Matthews: "Can I move my chair?"
Evans, who has been trailing in the polls, escaped mostly unscathed from the attacks. He noted that Rendell had called him the most qualified candidate and urged voters to remember that the election wasn't over.
"Do not let anybody tell you this election is over. This election is in your hands," he said. *