It's a sign of the Republican Party's feeble condition in citywide politics that the biggest question its mayoral candidate has faced all year is: Does he plan to give up the nomination to let someone else run?

Al Taubenberger's answer is succinct: "No."

Not much wiggle room there.

Taubenberger, 53, president of the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, was anointed the GOP's mayoral candidate by party leaders in February.

He was unopposed yesterday and apparently unopposed in February. There's no evidence that anyone else wanted the nomination, in spite of the perks - 10 months of free passes to community meetings and lifetime humming rights to "The Impossible Dream."

The last time a Republican won a Philadelphia mayor's race was in 1947. Sam Katz came close in 1999, but only after a Herculean $7 million fundraising effort. Taubenberger's latest report showed $11,622 in his campaign treasury.

The latest voter-registration figures have Democrats outnumbering Republicans, 5 to 1.

The GOP nomination got the affable Taubenberger on stage at many of the mayoral events this spring. He cemented his credentials as the only bilingual candidate by answering a question in fluent German.

But Taubenberger rarely figured into the give-and-take among the Democrats, and got widely noticed only when others speculated that a Tom Knox win in the Democratic primary could induce the GOP to replace Taubenberger with an African-American nominee, maybe even one of the black Democratic candidates.

Legally, that would require Taubenberger's signature on a candidate-withdrawal letter, and it won't happen, he says - not even if the Northeast's most powerful Republican, former House Speaker John Perzel, were to get on his knees and beg.

"That would be an interesting thing to see," Taubenberger said. "But I don't expect that to happen. And that would not sway me."

At recent campaign events, Taubenberger agreed with the Democrats that the city needs more police and better schools. He has sent three of his four children to public schools, and his wife, Joanne, teaches kindergarten at Cayuga Elementary School in Hunting Park.

The clearest difference was on gun control. While the Democrats said the city needs stronger gun laws and attacked the legislature for blocking them, Taubenberger urged restraint. "Let's enforce the gun laws we have now," he said on several occasions.

Taubenberger is a lifelong Philadelphian, a son of German immigrants who left their homeland in the 1930s to escape the country's economic and political woes.

Joining a brother who was already in Philadelphia, Taubenberger's father washed dishes at the Benjamin Franklin Hotel in Center City before becoming a chef, working at the Schwartzwald Inn and the Germantown Cricket Club and later opening a delicatessen in Burholme, at Oxford Avenue and St. Vincent Street. The family lived upstairs.

Taubenberger went to public schools, graduated from Northeast High and went on to Penn State, where he majored in agronomy and played soccer.

"I was interested in history," Taubenberger remembers, "but I had to get a job, and my father knew somebody in the business."

Taubenberger was in charge of the grounds at Friends Hospital for several years, and got into politics as a Republican committeeman. "I always liked the Republican philosophy of smaller government . . . more efficiency, less taxes, more conservatism for its family values," he said.

He spent four years doing constituent-service work for U.S. Rep. Charles Dougherty, then got to know the ins and outs of City Hall, working for City Council members Joan Krajewski, a Democrat, and Jack Kelly, a Republican.

After a brief business venture of his own, importing German wines, Taubenberger worked as a salesman for the Schmidt's brewery.

He took over the Northeast Chamber 15 years ago, building up its membership to 1,000 businesses, but also stayed active in politics, running in contested primaries for Congress in both 2002 and 2004. *