Sometimes You Feel Like a Nutter
Nutter for Mayor: A Vision for Philadelphia
"You have to have a sense of urgency and a sense of passion to get things done, and accept the fact that you will make decisions that will upset some people. I do what I do because of a passion to serve." Michael Nutter
Pennsylvania held a primary election including a critical race for Philly's Democratic mayoral candidate -- and the right guy won. Not necessarily for the right reasons.
It's odd, for example, that in a city with a strong African American majority, a black man widely seen by other blacks as "not one of us," elitist and having more in common with whites still won big.
It's even odder that nobody's made the Barack Obama connection.
Michael Nutter, while 100% African American, was raised like a middle class white kid. He walks and talks like one. Don't get all knee-jerk liberal on me, I'm reporting a consensus even Nutter acknowledges.
Growing up, the Nutters they didn't talk about race, they focused on education and hard work. On pride and self respect. On ethical behavior and correct English (Nutter's father eschewed ghetto-speak). They weren't rich but Nutter got scholarships to a private Catholic prep school. And to Penn, where he earned a Wharton business degree for crying out loud.
Michael Nutter's got his funky little humanizing quirks too: he worked as a Disco DJ, couldn't cut it in medical school "and the world is a safer place" he reports with his trademark dry humor and clear diction. Married 16 years, he has a 23-year-old son from "a previous relationship." Ahem.
Nutter's more than a bit of a nerd and a loner, but he's got creds. That Wharton degree got him placed at Xerox and as a financial advisor before he joined the political arena.
Nutter's wife is equally well educated and accomplished, the CEO of Philadelphia Academies, a nonprofit that helps inner city school students plan careers. The Nutters met when she was a grad student at Penn and have a 12 year old daughter.
Olivia Nutter. The candidate's 12-year-old Secret Weapon.
It was a campaign ad showing the formerly perceived uptight Nutter dropping Olivia off at school that's credited with humanizing his image. Her bright, smiling face, his beaming fatherly pride ... you just can't fake that. It boosted him not only into the race but ahead of the pack.
The Nutter campaign made more Olivia ads and ran them non-stop. Which grabbed the attention--and the votes--of the city.
Not just Olivia and not so surprising, considering his opponents.
Tom Knox, a white rich guy claiming to come from humble beginnings who nobody ever heard of until he spent $10 million of his own money on TV ads. He was leading until Olivia Nutter hit the airwaves and some stories about his own shady business dealings emerged.
Bob Brady, another white guy, part of the Party Machine, got all the usual endorsements. A Congressman and head of the Philadelphia Democratic Party, Brady's probably a great guy but he reminds me too much of Frank Rizzo without the nightstick.
Chaka Fattah, a black Congressman with a proud, colorful family history, a solid record, a bright future and a position as the presumptive front runner somehow just didn't pull it together.
I personally think the outcome would have been very different if Dick Doran, Fattah's and the city's smartest, most experienced political advisor hadn't died suddenly and far too soon. On the other hand, I'm glad Fattah's in Congress -- we need him there too.
There were others but they didn't get enough votes to merit our time here.
Let's just say that Michael, Lisa and Olivia Nutter are a breath of fresh air in a city that's suffered nearly 8 years of murder and mayhem under Mayor John Street--local standard bearer for Crime and Corruption--and his all too bizarre relatives.
How Street got elected twice and stayed in office is right up there with the unconscionable saga of George W. Bush. We can only hope the Dems will seize the national moment and momentum the way they did here in Philly.
But there's something the other Democratic hopefuls should be asking themselves now: does Barack Obama have a daughter?