THE FIVE-WAY brawl of the Democratic mayoral primary is coming to a noisy and confused close as the major candidates spent a frenetic weekend stumping for votes and trashing each other in negative mailings and broadcast ads.
It got so heated yesterday that Michael Nutter called rival Tom Knox "a scumbag," after Nutter was the victim of an anonymous leaflet attacking his religious practice. Knox's campaign denied any connection to the flier.
Arguably the most helpful development for a candidate was Gov. Rendell's 100,000-piece mailing to voters calling state Rep. Dwight Evans "the best qualified candidate to be mayor of Philadelphia."
"Do you listen to other people or the media, or Ed Rendell, who was mayor, who was America's mayor?" Evans asked yesterday. "I think you're going to listen to Ed Rendell."
With polls opening tomorrow morning, here's a campaign snapshot of the five major Democratic candidates:
Once the front-runner who said nice things about rival Michael Nutter, millionaire Knox is now blanketing the city with anti-Nutter mailings and ads.
Particularly striking was a mailing to white neighborhoods that featured a photo of Mayor Street with his arm around Nutter, underneath the headline "Things won't change if we elect Michael Nutter." Nutter and Street have been adversaries for years.
Knox mailings in black communities attack Nutter as a "failed politician" who's gotten money from city contractors and allowed crime to rise in his City Council district.
Knox, who says his polling shows him and Nutter in a dead- heat, said his opinion of Nutter had changed since the early days of the campaign.
"You think you know somebody, then people start saying, 'Did you know this, this and this about him?' " Knox said.
Since vaulting to the lead in opinion polls, Nutter's public comments about his rivals had grown bland - until yesterday.
An anonymous flier appeared on windshields outside Catholic churches claiming Knox was the "only, one, true Catholic" in the race. It attacked Nutter for becoming a Baptist, and said Bob Brady "never attends mass."
Reacting to the flier at an event at the zoo yesterday, Nutter called Knox "a scumbag" in a comment to an Inquirer reporter. Elaborating last night, Nutter called the leaflet, which bore Knox's name and lever number in large letters, "trash and filth."
"This is an issue he [Knox] needs to deal with," Nutter said. "He, his campaign and his friends need to clean it up."
Knox campaign manager Josh Morrow said neither Knox nor the campaign had anything to do with the flier. "We would never, ever, do anything like that, and whoever did it isn't doing us any favors," Morrow said.
On the airwaves, a Nutter TV ad continues to air that attacks Knox with damning quotes from several publications and concludes with the exhortation, "Don't let Tom Knox's money buy the mayor's office."
Fattah kept a busy schedule, working churches, supermarkets and block parties, predicting victory and arguing that Nutter has become the darling of party bosses anxious to keep their hold on City Hall.
"My career has always been opposite the party leaders," Fattah said yesterday. "We've been fighting for 25 years."
A Fattah mailing delivered over the weekend charges that "Nutter's plan would slash family services and school funds to give handouts to downtown businesses." (Nutter disagrees.)
Fattah, who was third in the most recent Keystone poll, said his campaign has momentum and the city's best field organization, ready to "bring 100 percent of my voters to the polling place, and that will be enough."
Brady was a happy warrior on the campaign trail, hitting the streets in the Northeast on Saturday and churches and other stops yesterday.
Standing outside the Oak Lane Diner yesterday, Brady reminded reporters he'll have thousands of Democratic committeemen and women and union supporters in the field tomorrow.
"I walk into the diner and people tell me they're supporting me, even though this is Dwight Evans' back yard," Brady said.
He denied speculation that he's encouraging anyone to support Nutter in order to stop Knox.
Brady still has TV ads attacking Knox, and he made no apology for it.
"One candidate kept beating up the Democratic Party," Brady said, "and I'm not going to let anybody beat up the Democratic Party, especially when they want the nomination."
Buoyed by the Rendell mailing, Evans stayed up all night Saturday, campaigning in restaurants, jazz clubs, and at Pat's and Geno's cheesesteak emporiums on Passyunk Avenue in the wee hours.
"If you want to do this job, that's what it's going to take," Evans said yesterday morning after the marathon. "Not so much staying up all night, but the toughness and leadership you have to provide. And I went out to show people I'm really going to fight for this job." *