Michael Nutter represents Philadelphia's new black politician. He reaches out to all groups, something that Manning Marable, Columbia University professor of Public Affairs, Political Science, History and African American studies suggests must be done to get beyond "racial-identity" politics.
And black politicians, such as Illinois Senator Barak Obama and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick have found success and acceptance doing just that.
The sure fire support of civil rights groups or black entrenched politicians and their machines doesn't carry as much weight as they did in the '60s, 70s, or even '80s.
Things have changed. In this era, blacks trying to succeed in politics must understand that.
Nutter did. He drew votes from across the city, not just in African-American or white divisions.
A sure sign of this change in Philadelphia occurred during a debate when Chaka Fattah, whose parents helped gang members in the '60s and '70s, played what he thought would be a sure-fire black unifier: "I'm sorry the councilman has to remind himself he's an African American."
Rather than a rallying cry, Fattah's clumsy attempt to portray himself as "more black" than Nutter (already an issue with Obama) sounded like a whimper from a desperate man who trolled out 1960 themes in the year 2007.
And Fattah's platform, fighting poverty, once a rallying cry and code for helping black people, is, despite its importance to society, no longer the galvanizing force it was 30 years ago. Things have changed. Not all blacks view themselves as poor; many have become middle-class. And with money as somewhat an equalizer (race will always have a place in our society), these blacks share commonality with their white counterparts: a desire for good schools, decent neighborhoods, and crime-free streets.
As black Philadelphians became enmeshed in city politics, their loyalties became based not just on race, but also on who had access to power, jobs, and influence. So it was no surprise that black ward leaders and constituents pledged their allegiance to a white guy like Democratic party boss Bob Brady.
Or that Tom Knox' hard knock life story resonated with so many.
But experience has also shown black voters that just because you put an African American in political office, it doesn't always mean they will take care of you. Many blacks are disappointed at Mayor John Street's reign; one of the most egregious being his seeming lack of concern over the small number of minority contractors in the city.
Another change: The Black Clergy of Philadelphia was once considered an influential group whose endorsements were viewed as very important. No longer. They endorsed Dwight Evans, who ended up fifth place.
Black radio, once a beacon in rallying black thought, has lost its impact too, with changes over the years at WDAS, the sale of WHAT-AM, cutbacks of public affair shows, and the replacement of politically conscious local DJs with syndicated hosts. Only WURD, a small station with a big mission, remains.
Times have changed. Nutter knew that. Future black candidates in Philadelphia must take note of it, too.
Al Hunter is a member of the Daily News editorial board.