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Primary color: A vote transcending race

Maybe the primary election was decided by such guys as Bill Edger, 82, a white retired police officer from Northeast Philadelphia.

Maybe the primary election was decided by such guys as Bill Edger, 82, a white retired police officer from Northeast Philadelphia.

For Edger and many others, skin color was secondary to substance.

Edger decided that he just didn't trust businessman Tom Knox, citing stories about Knox's charging people too much for loans, and allegedly failing to make good on promises to personally finance severance pay for union members.

He voted for former City Councilman Michael Nutter.

"Nutter seems to be the only one who fought against [Mayor Street] and went up for what he thought was right," Edger said.

Edger, voting at St. Timothy's Parish School, said: "I've been a police officer. I'm used to working with good white people and good black people. Being black doesn't bother me at all if I think they're good people, and I think Nutter was."

All over the city, long-standing racial voting patterns seemed to be receding. Voters said race didn't matter nearly as much as such issues as crime, corruption or character.

Neal Hill, 47, an African American man voting in Mayfair, picked Bob Brady, the Democratic Party leader and congressman.

"I think he'll be toughest on crime," said Hill, who works for US Airways. "Race was irrelevant for me. The No. 1 issue was crime."

At John Welsh School in Kensington, Alejandrina Rios, 35 - who describes herself as half-black, half-Puerto Rican - voted for Knox.

"I understand how he was raised, and there's a lot of us who grew up in the projects, too," she said.

In Mount Airy, voting at the Germantown Home, Sylvia Rankin, 69, an African American retiree, voted for Knox because he was an outsider, and she thought that all three African American candidates - Nutter, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, and State Rep. Dwight Evans - were insiders who had been, at best, ineffective: "We haven't seen them accomplish anything," she said.

Right after her, Marie Ruddell, 56, who works for the American Friends Service Committee and is white, voted for Nutter: "I feel very strongly the American voting public is by and large beyond the issue of race."

In classic Philadelphia fashion, the entrance to every polling location was marked by people in bright candidate T-shirts, standing by signs, handing out literature for their candidate.

Many Knox workers said they were paid $100 for the day. One man said he got the job after answering an ad on Craigslist.

"The money out on the street is unbelievable today,"  Democratic committeewoman Mary Goldman said at a polling place at 40th and Walnut Streets.

"The good news is that it's going to the unemployed instead of just going to pay for television ads."

One African American man in his 20s in a red Knox shirt at Overbrook High started shouting as Fattah approached.

"The T-shirt is name only! Name only!" Asked whom he voted for, he said Fattah. "I only did it for the money," he said, declining to give his name.

Two African American men at West Philadelphia High could be seen stripping off their shirts about 7 p.m.

"This was the only job my son could get me," said one.

For Knox, money seemed to be a big issue - for and against him. Supporters loved that he had pulled himself up from poverty, that he was self-made.

Oreida Chu-Pund, a retired University of Pennsylvania and Villanova professor of Spanish literature, voted for Knox at Masterman School.

"I feel we need a strong, firm hand to deal with the problems in Philadelphia. We need a complete change," she said. "He's wealthy and not afraid to be independent."

Others thought that he was buying the election by spending millions of his own money on advertising.

"I didn't like him throwing all his money around," said Brady voter Barbara Carotenuto of Northeast Philadelphia.

Nutter's support for stop-and-frisk - a proposal to have police stop people they suspect are carrying guns and frisking them - appeared to cost Nutter some votes. Even supporters were concerned.

At Kenderton Elementary at 15th and Ontario Streets in North Philadelphia, Robert Young, 50, an African American man, declined to say whom he voted for but criticized stop-and-frisk.

"That isn't cool," Young said. "That's too much like Frank Rizzo."

Dale Herrick voted in Mount Airy for Dwight Evans. "He gets the city because he's lived it," she said. "And I don't quite agree with Nutter's stop and frisk. I don't want to turn the city into a police state."

William Taylor, 48, an African American truck driver from the Tioga section, said he supported stop-and-frisk, noting that there were more than 400 homicides in Philadelphia last year.

"I don't mind being stopped, because I am no criminal," Taylor said. "I have a son who is 20 years old. I have to worry about him."

Lucy Glasson Fowler, 31, who moved to South Philadelphia from Boston with her new husband six months ago, said the idea of stop-and-frisk was "a little troubling." But in the end, she decided it was probably a "necessary evil."

"I think with a well-trained police force, it should be no problem," said Fowler, a Nutter voter. "That's the problem: making sure the police respect civil liberties."

After a long campaign, and a barrage of ads, many voters couldn't decide until the last moment.

Ashley Gearhart, 18, a Central High senior and first-time voter, said she made up her mind in the booth.

"I was going back and forth between Nutter and Knox," she said. "I think Knox has the heart. He's the only nonpolitician to run, a self-made man. I wasn't sure he knew what he was getting himself into."

She chose Knox.