Figure this: A former hot dog vendor who (a) couldn't get his name on a Pennsylvania ballot last year because he lived in New Jersey and (b) is under indictment on federal corruption and tax charges has decided to run for mayor of Philadelphia.
"If people don't want to vote for me because I've been indicted, go vote for somebody else," T. Milton Street Sr. said yesterday as he announced he was joining the five major Democratic candidates for mayor.
Long controversial, the older brother of Mayor Street quietly picked up a stack of nominating petitions last week. At noon yesterday, he strolled into City Hall to share his news with reporters.
"You haven't heard from me very much in seven years and seven months," Street said. "I stepped back and allowed John Street to administrate and run this city the way he thought without me confusing things."
Later, inside the McDonald's at 10th and Market Streets, Street offered more insight on why - at age 67 and jobless - he would get into a race that's already messier than messy.
He seemed contrite, passionate - and dead serious.
"I don't want people to think this is a joke," Street said.
"I'm running because I'm disenchanted with Harrisburg. . . . We've got to get the illegal guns off the street and advance stiffer sentences for the people using them."
What about the federal charges that he pocketed $2 million in consulting fees at Philadelphia International Airport, and failed to report that income? The trial is set to begin May 14, one day before the primary election.
"I haven't done anything wrong," Street said. "I'm not going to stick my head down and be ashamed."
And what about the fact that a judge last year forbade him to run for a Pennsylvania House seat because he gave a New Jersey home address in bankruptcy papers six months earlier?
Though he still spends some weekends at the New Jersey house, Street said, he now lives with his daughter in a two-story rowhouse in Northeast Philadelphia on a small block named Anchor Street. That's where his pretrial supervisors check up on him monthly, he said. That's also the address he gave on a recently mailed voter-registration card, he said.
As of yesterday afternoon, the mayor and his brother had not spoken about this latest political news. "It's really premature to discuss this," mayoral spokesman Joe Grace said, saying candidates are first circulating their petitions.
Milton Street, who was elected in 1978 to one state House term and in 1980 to one state Senate term, has been jobless of late. "Once you get indicted, you kind of can't get work," he said, adding that he lives off Social Security checks.
He described his decision to run as a "spontaneous" one, spurred by TV ads that two of his rivals, Tom Knox and U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, are airing this week. Street said he considered Knox, a millionaire funding his run himself, his biggest rival. "He has the mother's milk."
Street said he wasn't worried about his late campaign start. He said he would launch a Web site and would file his nominating petitions, with more signatures than the 1,000 required, on Wednesday - two weeks before they are due.
He dismissed any concern about raising campaign money. He doesn't need it. "I'm going to get all the publicity I need confronting all the other earthlings running."
To read more about the mayoral bid of T. Milton Street Sr., visit "Mayorpalooza" at http://blogs.phillynews.com/inquirer/mayor2007/EndText