Mayoral candidates shift into attack gear

The Democrats expanded their barbs beyond the front-runner. A new poll also drew reactions from the field.

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U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), a candidate for mayor, speaks to a crowd outside City Hall. His plan to lease Philadelphia International Airport to fund antipoverty efforts has come under frequent attack.

As the increasingly bitter Democratic mayoral primary campaign moved into its final week, the candidates kept on sniping at one another - and not just at front-runner Michael Nutter.

Dwight Evans, for instance, planted himself outside the U.S. Mint at Fifth and Arch Streets to take a whack at Chaka Fattah for having talked about possibly raising taxes, with Evans saying that "Philadelphia just can't print money."

Bob Brady traveled to the abandoned site of Kasser Distillers in the Feltonville section to blast Tom Knox, who once owned it, for going back on a pledge to pay severance to 31 employees laid off when Knox closed the plant in 1989.

Fattah went to City Hall to renew his criticism of Nutter's proposal to have police stop, question and frisk people suspected of carrying illegal weapons, saying the city should not endanger "civil rights in efforts to provide safety."

And all the candidates reacted to the results of the new Daily News/Keystone Poll, in which Nutter had 31 percent support, Knox 21, Fattah 13, Brady 11, and Evans 3, with 21 percent undecided.

"I'm very pleased about the numbers," Nutter said during a noontime walk through the Reading Terminal Market, "but it's just a snapshot in time."

Knox, who had led earlier polls, said his internal polls had Nutter ahead by a smaller margin, with Knox closing the gap. Brady cited polls of his own showing a close race.

Evans was asked what he tells supporters who see the numbers. He replied: "It is not over. It is not over. Vote. That's what I tell them."

Fattah had the most creative response to the news, telling a union rally in West Philadelphia to think of him as Street Sense, the Kentucky Derby winner Saturday.

Like Street Sense, Fattah said, he was the early favorite and, like the horse, he fell behind once the race started. Now, of course, it is up to the U.S. representative to complete the analogy by roaring from behind to win.

"We've worked hard, and we've earned this election," Fattah said.

Evans, at his news conference, took Fattah to task for proposing to lease Philadelphia International Airport to a private operator and to use the proceeds to fund a long-term assault on generational poverty. The state representative from West Oak Lane said the idea wouldn't work.

Though Fattah "is trying to get this vision out to people to give them a sense of hope," Evans said, "the only thing he is doing is pulling the carpet from under them."

Brady, surrounded by about a dozen Teamsters during his event at the old beverage works, said the empty factory represented "the legacy that we're going to have when Mr. Knox becomes mayor."

Knox's campaign manager, Josh Morrow, responded: "It's really sad to see his career end this way - Bob Brady hanging outside of an abandoned liquor factory attacking Tom Knox instead of telling voters what he stands for."

Earlier in the day, Brady was endorsed by Unite Here! Local 274, which represents workers in the hospitality industry and says 16,000 members live in the city.

Fattah, at his news conference outside City Hall, expressed no regrets about his remark in a televised debate Monday night that Nutter needed to "remind himself that he's an African American."

He said that if he had done what Nutter had done earlier in this campaign - calling himself "an angry black man" over the city's homicide rate or using the term "black genocide" - he, Fattah, would have been accused "of racially injecting language as code to black voters."

And Fattah continued to press the stop-and-frisk issue, even though his own crime plan calls for selective use of the tactic to get guns off the street.

Knox did, too, saying in an interview that "the African American community is concerned about it because they think it's profiling. We should be getting crime under control with a good police commissioner, not stop-and-frisk."

Nutter told reporters he believed stop-and-frisk was a legal and effective tool to reduce violence. But he also said that as mayor he would not hesitate to revise or abandon the plan if it proved counterproductive.

"I'd be the first person to stand up and say that if something is not meeting the goals I have set out for this city, then we would have to revisit it," Nutter said. "That's what a responsible leader does."

Meanwhile, officials at 6ABC announced that attempts to assemble the five major candidates for a seventh broadcast debate Sunday had failed. Program director Caroline Welch cited scheduling conflicts for some of the candidates, whom she would not identify.


Contact senior writer Larry Eichel

at 215-854-2415 or leichel@phillynews.com.

Inquirer staff writers Marcia Gelbart and Thomas Fitzgerald contributed to this article.