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North Philly pastor joins mayor's race

Rev. Keith Goodman wants to "represent people whose lives are not always easy."

THE REV. Keith Goodman warmly greeted two dozen members of his North Philadelphia Seventh-day Adventist Church in the lobby yesterday, moments before leading them into the polar cold of 16th and Oxford streets to cheer the birth of his mayoral campaign.

"My first campaign promise should be, 'No more cold days like this,' " he said, smiling. "I'd be a typical politician making a campaign promise I can't deliver."

Everyone laughed and walked outside, where Goodman's first campaign promise was to "represent people whose lives are not always easy" and to fight for folks who "are like the people who raised me."

He was standing, purposefully, in front of an old building that his congregation is turning into 26 apartments and an 8,000-square-foot community-services center.

Last year, Goodman led funeral services for the mother and three children fatally run over by two violent carjackers who lost control of their stolen vehicle.

Goodman told the Daily News that one carjacker "wasn't a career criminal, just a kid making stupid choices to hook up with a hardened criminal."

Goodman wondered if that kid could've been saved years earlier. "When you close schools and libraries and take away constructive options, kids get into trouble between 3 and 7 p.m.," he said.

"It's the old story about the ambulance and the fence," he said. "A guy notices that people keep driving off a cliff. Some people say, 'Let's get an ambulance.' The guy says, 'Let's build a guardrail.' "

Goodman wants to be the mayor who proactively builds the guardrail to prevent people from driving off the cliff.

He will be one of four black candidates in the race, joining state Sen. Anthony Williams, former PGW spokesman Doug Oliver and former state Sen. T. Milton Street, who plans to officially launch his campaign tomorrow.

"The more the merrier," said Williams' spokesman, Al Butler. "That always makes for a stronger debate, and the people always win with a stronger debate."

Butler rejected the conventional wisdom that the mayor's race will be decided based on race and that Goodman would siphon off votes that might otherwise go to Williams in the May 19 primary.

"When you boil the race down to a simple equation of racial math, that kind of sells the electorate short," Butler said. "I've seen African-Americans vote for white candidates and whites vote for African-American candidates."

Other mayoral candidates are former District Attorney Lynne Abraham and former Councilman Jim Kenney, who are white, and former Common Pleas Judge Nelson Diaz, who is Puerto Rican.

Goodman's candidacy may turn out to be more about residency than race.

He lived in Philadelphia from 1999 to 2003, then lived in Chester until returning to Philadelphia a month ago.

He has been a pastor at his North Philadelphia church for nine years but commuted from Chester most of that time.

The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter states that "the Mayor shall have been a resident of the City for at least three years preceding his election."

Goodman said it doesn't state that the three years must be immediately preceding the election. But he could face a residency challenge to his candidacy.