Michael Nutter's victory yesterday was no surprise, but it crowned an improbable campaign that harnessed Philadelphians' hope for a better city.
Nutter has promoted unwaveringly his optimistic vision for the city. It's a Philadelphia with less crime, fewer illegal guns, cleaner streets, and zero tolerance for insider deals at City Hall.
City voters desperately want Nutter to turn his message into reality. After eight years under Mayor John Street, there is a perception here and beyond that Philadelphia is losing ground.
The rising murder rate and the recent shootings of three police officers seem confirmation of a city turning toward decline.
Enthusiastically, city residents yesterday told Mayor-elect Nutter to get busy.
Voters in the Philadelphia region also chose City Council seats, county and municipal offices, state judges, and all 120 legislative seats in New Jersey.
Nutter's victory over Republican Al Taubenberger was never in doubt. But the inevitability of a Democratic win in this one-party town shouldn't obscure the magnitude of Nutter's personal achievement.
In April, just one month before the primary, the former city councilman was polling fourth in a five-way race. Ahead of Nutter were two well-known congressmen, Chaka Fattah and Bob Brady, and a self-made millionaire, Tom Knox, who spent about $10 million on his own campaign.
Nutter won that race because he was the most convincing voice for reform in a city weary of the scandals borne of machine politics. (A brilliant campaign commercial featuring his daughter, Olivia, didn't hurt, either.)
He was the candidate with the most credibility because he has proved that he can get things done. As a councilman, Nutter accelerated cuts in the city's wage tax. In the wake of a City Hall pay-to-play scandal, he led the charge for campaign finance reform and created the city's ethics board. He pushed through a ban on smoking in restaurants.
Now Philadelphia needs Nutter to bring that spirit of what's possible to the mayor's office. As Nutter said before the election, one of his most important decisions will come early - choosing a new police commissioner. That choice will determine whether, and how, the city can reverse a devastating rise in gun violence.
How well Nutter does his job will depend, too, on the continued commitment of people who love the city. The reform candidate couldn't have won without voters who are passionate for change. In forums throughout the city this year, citizens have demanded a safer, cleaner Philadelphia with better services and better schools. They have asked for innovative leadership. They have rejected the same old kind of politics.
With the help of everyone who gave him the job, Nutter can lead Philadelphia to a brighter day.