If you're sick of bitter partisanship in politics, the Philadelphia mayor's race remains your feel-good story of the year.

Democratic mayoral candidate Michael Nutter and Republican nominee Al Taubenberger engaged in another friendly wonk-fest last night at the Free Library's central branch.

While the candidates emphasized different points in their answers to questions from an audience of about 400, not a single disagreement between the two emerged from the exchange.

They both favor lower taxes, strong schools, safer streets and more jobs.

Taubenberger didn't even level the traditional Philadelphia Republican charge that a half century of one-party Democratic rule has made city government corrupt and indifferent to citizens' problems.

Nutter took advantage of a question on crime to emphasize a different plank of his platform from the "stop, question, frisk" policy that generated controversy in the Democratic mayoral primary.

Nutter said that while he still plans an aggressive campaign to get illegal guns off the street, he also wants to work on jobs and rehabilitation for ex-cons.

"If we want to drive down the crime rate in Philadelphia we have to put these people back to work," Nutter said. "I believe that if you do the crime you got to do the time, but the time can't last forever."

Taubenberger followed by emphasizing the importance of picking a good police commissioner, but then agreed with Nutter that reducing recidivism among ex-cons is critical.

"These people deserve a second chance," Taubenberger said. "People need to go back to work, and the banishment of being an ex-offender has to be removed."

Taubenberger displayed his liability and sense of humor, noting at one point that former school CEO Paul Vallas seemed to forget his promise to brief him on education after the May primary election.

"I guess the negative side of being a candidate of a party that hasn't had power in 60 years is that they don't take you too seriously," Taubenberger said. "He never called again."

Nutter couldn't resist injecting, "We're going to try to keep it that way."

Taubenberger recounted that he then dropped in on Vallas unannounced and got his briefing while movers were packing Vallas' things for his move to New Orleans.

Nutter and Taubenberger finished the evening with a handshake and a bear hug.

One other measure of the lack of partisan edge to the forum: No public notice was taken of the fact that the moderator, William Sasso, the Free Library Foundation's board chairman, was an early supporter, fundraiser and contributor to Nutter. *