Doug Oliver, the youngest Democratic contender for mayor, got the biggest cheers at a forum planned and executed Tuesday by Central High School students.
Melissa Murray Bailey, the lone Republican candidate, won applause when she said one-party rule had gone on for too long in Philadelphia.
And Nelson Diaz, who told the audience of 12th graders they were the most important people on his schedule, surprised the audience when he said his favorite pop star was Jennifer Lopez.
On policy answers, the candidates hewed to more familiar answers: Jim Kenney wants universal prekindergarten. Diaz wants immediate dissolution of the School Reform Commission - something the mayor cannot control. Lynne M. Abraham wants to get rid of the PICA board. State Sen. Anthony H. Williams thinks tensions between Philadelphia School District schools and charter schools are not productive. Oliver said he would be a fresh set of eyes in politics.
But the student-moderated panel yielded some unusual moments.
Diaz, who said he got into the race to fix public schools, professed his affection for the students.
"I love you," he said.
T. Milton Street told the students that they were not "safe today when you leave here," hammering home a point that the city was too violent and that as mayor, he would make public safety his top priority.
One student asked what the candidates would do to keep millennials in Philadelphia. Young people, the student observed, tend to "date Philadelphia and marry New York."
Oliver replied, "When you want to marry people, you treat them right."
Williams said that millennials and Philadelphia were "shacking up," but that millennials won't commit to the city the way officials want them to "until we fix the schools."
Kenney, pointing to legislation he pushed as a city councilman, said he was proud of what he had done to keep millennials in the city, but acknowledged concerns about schools and public transit.
He said he was proud of Philadelphia, but "we can do better."
The "Lancer Lightning Round" offered several revelations.
Cheesesteaks? Kenney thinks Tony Luke's are the best. Oliver favors Ed's Pizza House on Wayne Avenue. Bailey is for Pat's. Diaz likes Fiesta Pizza in Chestnut Hill. Street is for Dalessandro's. (Abraham and Williams departed before the lightning round.)
Favorite pop stars? Street likes Madonna. Kenney picked U2. Bailey chose Bon Jovi. Oliver named Jay Z, Diaz likes J-Lo.
Five of the candidates graded School Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., whose marks ranged from A (Street and Oliver) to C (Diaz). Kenney gave Hite a B+, and Bailey handed out a B.
The students, many of whom are eligible to vote in the May 19 primary, said they were largely impressed with the candidates' answers.
(Mostly. Vilajet Kovaci wished the candidates had spoken with "a little more depth," he said. "It was kind of superficial.")
Daneisha LaTorre, who will turn 18 just before the primary, said she was wowed by Oliver.
"I liked his charisma, and how young he was," LaTorre said. "But I wonder how he will do beyond people our age."