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Rendell endorses Rhynhart for controller, calls for term limits for city offices

Former mayor and governor Edward G. Rendell endorsed political newcomer Rebecca Rhynhart for city controller Tuesday, calling her a “breath of fresh air” and “supremely qualified” to take over the city’s fiscal watchdog position in January.

Former mayor and governor Ed Rendell endorsed political newcomer Rebecca Rhynhart for city controller Tuesday, calling her a "breath of fresh air" and "supremely qualified" to take over the city's fiscal watchdog position in January.

"There has not been in my lifetime a candidate for controller with that type of financial background," Rendell said during a news conference outside the Municipal Services Building, where the Controller's Office is located. "When you compare to the incumbent, who was a state representative and a lawyer with no financial background, the difference is stark."

Rhynhart, a Democratic former city treasurer and budget director who under the Kenney administration took the new title of chief administrative officer until she quit to run for office, is trying to unseat Alan Butkovitz, a longtime ward leader who is seeking a fourth term as controller. The primary election is May 16.

Rendell, who endorsed Butkovitz in the 2013 election, said three terms is "enough." He called for term limits for every local elected official (only the mayor has a limit of two four-year terms).

"I believe we should change the charter and every elected official in Philadelphia -- controller, district attorney, mayor, and City Council members -- should be limited to two terms," Rendell said. "We would have a more effective and efficient government if we did that."

Butkovitz defended his record and the need for another term for him during a meeting with the Inquirer and Daily News editorial boards Tuesday.

"We have been able to create an institutional counterpoint over time; there are things that this office has been nationally recognized for that we never did before," Butkovitz said. "So, if we were subject to an arbitrary term limit, a lot of that progress would simply be sacrificed."

Butkovitz said that "there are a lot of opportunities" for Rhynhart to run for office. Just not his seat.

"She sounds to me more like a congressional or senatorial candidate than a candidate for city controller," Butkovitz said. Rhynhart cut him off, saying, "I actually have more financial experience than you have."

The two candidates will be facing off in their first debate April 27 at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. The debate will not be televised but is open to the public.