October 18, 2003


Well, Dog My Katz!: A conservative just may be the next mayor of Philadelphia. (John Fund, October 16, 2003, Wall Street Journal)

A century ago, the muckraking journalist Lincoln Steffens described Philadelphia as "corrupt and contented." Back then, the City of Brotherly Love was being shaken down by a Republican machine. About 1950, that machine collapsed and was replaced by a Democratic one, with which the overtaxed city now is no longer "contented." Challenging its dominance is an unlikely Republican reformer running in next month's mayoral election. If he wins, Sam Katz could initiate the kind of reform agenda that Rudy Giuliani used to revive New York in the 1990s.

Mr. Katz, a 53-year-old businessman, exemplifies the way a lot of liberal baby boomers have come to mature politically. In the 1960s he protested the Vietnam War. In the 1970s he managed the campaigns of many liberal candidates in Philadelphia--including that of former civil-rights activist and congressman Bill Gray. In the 1980s, Mr. Katz became head of the nation's largest municipal finance advisory firm, and he gradually became disenchanted with liberal solutions. In the 1990s he ran twice for mayor on a free-market platform, losing four years ago to Democrat John Street by one percentage point. [...]

The voters Mr. Katz has the most trouble with are blacks, who make up 43% of the city. Mayor Street has tried to energize them by claiming the federal investigation of his office is part of a White House effort to discredit a black mayor. No polls have been taken on what effect that message is having with minority voters. Certainly Mr. Katz is making more of an effort in black neighborhoods than he did in the past, partly by calling for better policing that takes into account the suspicions many minorities have of the local men in blue.

One of Mr. Katz's most effective commercials features Robin Holts, a Democratic lawyer, who looks at the camera and says, "I don't care about your color; I don't care about your political party affiliation. I'm looking for the person who has my best interest at heart. This is the City of Brotherly Love, and the brother I'm voting for is Sam Katz." Next month's election will test whether Mr. Katz's emphasis on creating jobs and economic growth overcomes the traditional suspicion minorities have of white candidates in Philadelphia.

This would add immeasurably to the potentially gloomy November for the Democrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 18, 2003 9:10 AM
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