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Knox, Blackwell unveil election 'reform ticket'

Mayoral candidate Tom Knox yesterday unveiled his "reform ticket" in partnership with Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell - the only City Council member to vote against ethics reform.

reveals a new coalition.
reveals a new coalition.Read more

Mayoral candidate Tom Knox yesterday unveiled his "reform ticket" in partnership with Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell - the only City Council member to vote against ethics reform.

Knox - a businessman who has fashioned himself as an anti-corruption, anti-nepotism outsider - saw nothing incongruous in joining forces with Blackwell, an insider who inherited her political power from her spouse and stood alone in City Council two years ago to oppose campaign-finance limits.

"We want to reform city government, and she's the best one to do it," said Knox, who said he would support a Blackwell bid to become president of City Council.

One of Knox's rivals in the May 15 mayoral primary saw the alliance differently. "His definition of reform is as diluted as his definition of outsider," said Kate Philips, the spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Bob Brady.

The mutual-support pact between Knox and Blackwell was among a cascade of endorsements announced yesterday by the mayoral contenders as the campaign entered its final two weeks.

State Rep. Dwight Evans won the support of three state senators, 12 state representatives, three members of City Council, the city sheriff and a city commissioner.

Michael Nutter won the endorsements of the Northeast Times, a large weekly newspaper, and the Philadelphia City Paper. U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah announced the support of the Philadelphia Taxi Owners Association. And Brady was backed by seven labor locals representing the majority of the city government's blue-collar workforce.

The alliance between Knox, who was endorsed yesterday by the Spanish-language newspaper El Hispano, and Blackwell was perhaps the most curious development of the day.

Knox, whose self-funded campaign has drawn few public endorsements of organizations that can deliver votes, will benefit from the backing of Blackwell's Third Ward organization in West Philadelphia.

Knox and Blackwell held a news conference at the Lucien E. Blackwell Homes in West Philadelphia, named for Blackwell's late husband, a former congressman whom she said "handed over" the ward-leadership position to her years ago. He died in 2003.

Knox released a list of 10 Council candidates he was supporting by putting them on his ballot, but only three attended the news conference - Blackwell, at-large candidate Matt Ruben, and First Ward candidate Vernon Anastasio.

Neither Ruben nor Anastasio said he was endorsing Knox, but they said they were delighted to be on his ballot. Neither of the other incumbent Council members whom Knox endorsed - Juan Ramos and Blondell Reynolds Brown - attended the event.

Knox compared the potential partnership with Blackwell to that between former Mayor Edward Rendell and then-Council President John Street.

"Ed Rendell took John Street and made Philadelphia a better city," Knox said. "I'm going to embrace Jannie Blackwell, and I believe we can make Philadelphia a better city also."

Blackwell noted her lone opposition to the ethics-reform legislation, which set limits for campaign contributors who want to do business with the city. Critics say those limits have left the field vulnerable to a self-funded candidate such as Knox, who has spent at least $8 million of his own fortune to emerge from obscurity to lead recent polls.

"I not only did not know and had no relationship with him, I even voted against the ethics bill that allows him to spend whatever it is he chooses to spend in the election," Blackwell said. "But we're happy to be here now."

Knox, when pressed on whether he thought Blackwell was the beneficiary of favoritism because of her family relations, said only nepotism that produced a no-show job disturbed him.

"I mean, how much did Jannie get paid for being a ward leader?" he said. "I think it's nothing. Nepotism is a job that you shouldn't be getting, and get money for it. That's what I'm talking about."

Knox said he did not ask candidates for contributions to appear on his ballot - some mayoral candidates in the past have asked Council candidates to share the cost of printing the ballots, which are handed out on election day.

"We're going to put these people on the ballot because we believe they're the best people to run Philadelphia and to change the atmosphere in Philadelphia," he said.

With campaign-finance reports due by the end of the week, Knox repeated his promise to spend whatever was necessary to win the election.

"How much money have I put into the campaign so far?" he said. "Maybe it's about $8 million, maybe $9 million. Could be $10 million."

The other candidates were busy yesterday, too.

At an afternoon news conference, a squad of Evans' friends from Harrisburg traveled to Center City to give the candidate a collective bear-hug endorsement.

Crowded into a meeting room at his campaign headquarters, the legislators said Evans' strong ties in the state capital would help the city to tackle such issues as school funding, violence, gun control and economic development.

"I know these people - the people I need to move this city forward," said Evans, who said his campaign has raised $3.3 million from 4,000 supporters and has half a million in cash on hand.

Brady racked up more labor endorsements yesterday, getting the support of AFSCME Local 488, representing city health-care workers, as well as unions representing Parking Authority and non-uniformed police and fire employees; correctional officers; parks workers; mechanics in the city's fleet-management department; sanitation workers and city Highway Department employees.

Together, the locals represent about 6,000 city employees - a majority of the membership of AFSCME District Council 33, of which they are a part. The traditionally influential 10,000-member labor group declined to endorse a mayoral candidate this year, though Brady was the top choice of delegates surveyed at an April 11 district council meeting.