The five major Democratic candidates for mayor made one last lap around the city yesterday, going from early morning until late night in a final quest for votes in today's primary.

While the ugliness of the last week was not forgotten, the candidates tried to shrug off attacks made and received, and focused instead on generating enthusiasm for election day.

Perhaps the most surprising news was that Gov. Rendell, using his own campaign funds, paid for a mailing backing the candidacy of State Rep. Dwight Evans, who has been lagging in the polls.

The mailing quoted Rendell's words from an interview with The Inquirer this month in which he said of Evans: "On pure merit, he's the best-qualified candidate of all. He has the best experience, the best background, the best understanding of the issues."

Rendell has not formally endorsed Evans or any other candidate.

Michael Nutter, the leader in recent opinion surveys, tried to move beyond the weekend flap over an anonymous flyer questioning why he left the Catholic Church to become a Baptist more than 20 years ago - and over his reaction to the leaflet.

On Sunday, upon seeing the leaflet, Nutter denounced rival Tom Knox as a "scumbag," though Knox said that the flyer, which did urge people to vote for him, was not the work of his campaign.

"That was yesterday; today's the day before the election," Nutter said on Fifth Street in North Philadelphia, one stop on a schedule that took him through Northeast Philadelphia, Center City, South Philadelphia and Fairmount.

"The people I meet want to talk about issues that matter, issues like lowering taxes on business, reducing crime and cleaning up government," he said. "They're not paying attention to all this nonsense and political noise that's been going on the past few days."

The Committee of Seventy election watchdog group condemned the flyer as "utterly reprehensible," with the committee's president, Zack Stalberg, saying it "demeans what has otherwise largely been a substantive, issues-oriented campaign."

Knox spent the day pursuing voters at West Philadelphia transit stops, Center City lunch spots, a bowling alley and two diners in Northeast Philadelphia, and an evening rally in South Philadelphia.

"We're just meeting and greeting voters, that's it," Knox said outside the Reading Terminal, where he was surrounded by reporters.

While Knox talked with voters inside, an aide passed out red, white and blue Knox–for-mayor emery boards.

Around midday, a plane towed a banner proclaiming "Knox=Shark" over the city.

The "527" independent-expenditure group Economic Justice Coalition for Truth took responsibility, saying the banner was a reference to high-interest payday loans given by a bank Knox once owned.

U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah joined in a noontime prayer service outside City Hall before marching south on Broad Street with about 100 of his supporters to rally between Spruce and Locust Streets.

For the seven-term congressman, who began this race as the front-runner, success hinges on his street organization.

"If it's true I have a great political organization, you couldn't ask for a better opportunity to prove it," Fattah said of today's election. "I've done my part."

Speaking at the rally, he said there had been an effort to "bamboozle" voters on Nutter's behalf. "They tried to make someone who is a ward leader, a piece of the Democratic machinery, and make him a reformer," Fattah said.

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady stormed the terminal market at lunchtime, shaking hands, giving hugs and posing for pictures with admirers. He kissed the hand of the counterwoman at Termini Bros. and teased a pair of Texas tourists for wearing flip-flops instead of cowboy boots.

He said he was prepared to come from behind to win today, noting that the Democratic City Committee's organization, which he heads, gets to practice the art of turning out votes every six months.

"I am who I am, I have what I have," Brady said. "Polls are on paper. I got people. People are what count."

Fresh from a frenetic weekend in which he made 22 campaign stops in 24 hours, Evans was greeting commuters on the Broad Street Line and telling his story to elderly residents at Simpson House, a continuing-care retirement community on Belmont Avenue.

Noting that the closing hours of the campaign had turned dirty, Evans said, "I keep trying to tell the voters they have an alternative to all that."

Evans said he expected to have about 2,000 people working today. He said he would count on support from the political organizations of his friends in the legislature, including State Reps. Babette Josephs, Harold James, Tony Payton Jr. and others.

To view a slide show on each of the candidates, along with their profiles, campaign promises and more, go to http://go.philly.com/mayor

On election day go to philly.com for updated coverage of the race.EndText

Contact senior writer Larry Eichel at 215-854-2415 or leichel@phillynews.com.
Also contributing to this article were Inquirer staff writers Thomas Fitzgerald, Marcia Gelbart and Andrew Maykuth.