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Rizzo drops mayoral plans for comeback bid on Council

The Republican-turned-Democrat visits Council's last 2014 session today to announce his plans.

Frank Rizzo, Jr.  ( Steven M. Falk / Staff Photographer  )
Frank Rizzo, Jr. ( Steven M. Falk / Staff Photographer )Read moreSteven M. Falk

FORMER CITY Councilman Frank Rizzo, who made a high-profile switch last year from Republican to Democrat with heavy hints of a 2015 mayoral campaign ahead, will not enter that race.

Instead Rizzo, 71, will visit City Hall today during the last Council meeting of the year to announce a comeback bid.

Rizzo says he will run as a Democrat in the May 19 primary election for one of the five at-large Council seats.

That should be of interest to the five Democrats who now hold those seats and the many other candidates planning to run.

Rizzo, who served four terms on Council as a Republican, acknowledged one of the biggest threats to his comeback. GOP primary voters ousted him in 2011 because of his participation in the Deferred Retirement Option Plan, known as DROP.

That program allowed some elected officials to retire for one day, collect a six-figure pension payout and then return to work if re-elected to a new term.

"I've been sidelined by that decision," Rizzo said. "I think I paid the ultimate price in not being re-elected as a Republican."

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, chairman of the city's Democrats, made a media production in November 2013 of Rizzo's switch to Democrat, holding a sign in front of cameras at party headquarters.

Rizzo was expected to be a mayoral-primary candidate aimed at City Controller Alan Butkovitz, since Brady is backing state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams for the Democratic nomination.

Butkovitz announced last month that he would not run for mayor. He was frozen out of the field because Council President Darrell Clarke has not declared his intentions for the race and Butkovitz had said he wouldn't run if Clarke entered.

Rizzo cited the city's failed attempt to sell the Philadelphia Gas Works as a potential issue.

Council, under Clarke's leadership, refused to introduce legislation this year to consider the sale of PGW to a private company. The company, UIL Holdings, killed the deal for the purchase last week.

Rizzo said he would have introduced the legislation if he were still on Council, even if he didn't support selling PGW.

"How do you not have the conversation?" Rizzo wondered.

Another politician who had flirted with a run for mayor, state Rep. Dwight Evans, announced Monday he would not run.

Evans, who had poor showings in the 1999 and 2007 mayoral primaries, touted a poll last month that showed him with strong name recognition in the city.