INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Infused with adrenaline after a combative televised debate, Philadelphia's mayoral candidates took to the streets yesterday to energize the electorate as the campaign entered its last full week.
U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, who aimed barbed attacks at front-runners Michael Nutter and Tom Knox in the debate Friday night and in a new television ad, bounded through a jazz festival on Cecil B. Moore Avenue like a man on a mission to rouse a slumbering campaign.
"I think we began the debate last night about the future of the city," said Fattah, the former front-runner. "I need your support," he told voters who paused to greet him warmly. "You going to do the right thing?"
With a little more than a week remaining before the May 15 Democratic primary, the five candidates are pushing hard to distinguish themselves as the city's savior.
The point of Fattah's message yesterday - as well as his new television ad - was to set himself apart from Nutter and Knox as the only candidate who is making poverty reduction the central aim of his campaign.
"Michael Nutter is a smart guy who introduced about 45 bills when he was on the City Council," Fattah said as he circulated in the economically stressed North Philadelphia. "A lot of those dealt with tax cuts. Find out how many he's handled to help people who live in areas like this."
Nutter, now a former councilman, spent yesterday morning in Mount Airy, collecting nearly $4,000 in contributions at a fund-raiser at the High Point Cafe, after a visit to the Trolley Car Diner, partly owned by a campaign supporter, Ken Weinstein.
"Did you see the debate last night?" Nutter asked Pastor Sherry Jones, who was reading a front-page story about the debate. "It was kind of wild."
Knox, a wealthy businessman who has funded his own campaign, also had the debate on his mind as he listened to 10 community activists and supporters in North Philadelphia talk about the travails of living in the neighborhood known as the Badlands.
He received warm wishes for his debate performance from the group, gathered at the Timothy Academy in North Philadelphia.
"We want to congratulate you on the debate," said Hector Rodriguez, a supporter.
Knox asked what part he had liked best. Rodriguez said it had been when U.S. Rep. Bob Brady attacked Knox. "You held very firm," he said.
On a gorgeous day perfect for pressing the flesh, Brady, the city's Democratic Party boss, knocked on doors in South Philadelphia with City Councilman Frank DiCicco, and then worked the streets in Northeast Philadelphia in the afternoon.
State Rep. Dwight Evans greeted shoppers at four grocery stores in the Northeast before closing out the afternoon at the Mount Airy Day festival, a big event that attracted all the candidates except Brady.
Knox, who also campaigned in South Philadelphia and Brewerytown yesterday, received a bit of an education as he walked through the area near Third and Indiana Streets.
It was a curious scene, the multimillionaire Knox and his wife, Linda - he wearing monogrammed shirts and she walking her French bulldog, Lilly - as they toured a neighborhood of dilapidated rowhouses and lots overflowing with rubbish as residents spoke about fear, a thriving drug trade, and neglect from city government.
"Just the other day, there was a big shoot-out right here," said John Lopez, a Democratic committeeman who has declared his allegiance to Knox, as he stood at Fourth and Cambria. "Basically, this is our everyday living here."
Knox said the city should be more aggressive about forcing landowners to take care of their property. "I see your problem," he told Rodriguez. "We're going to take care of your problem."
Eduardo Cortez, who was sitting in his Oldsmobile when Knox extended his hand through the window, told Knox that he had heard it all before.
"Everybody tells us the same thing," Cortez said. "I hope you're different."
After the candidate moved on, Cortez expressed skepticism about the sincerity of politicians.
"This is what they do during election time," he said. "They come around to shake your hand. You see how they talk to you - only a couple of seconds. Then we never see them again."