Al Taubenberger: 'I've got nothing to lose'

The Republican mayoral candidate is oddly optimistic about the race.

Posted: June 11, 2007

Three and a half.

That's how Al Taubenberger rates his chances, on a 1 to 10 scale, of being elected Philadelphia mayor in November.

It's a higher rating than what he gave himself before - and certainly higher than anyone else in this city probably would give him.

Don't get him wrong. Taubenberger hasn't gone off the deep end.

He may be the GOP nominee, but he's fully aware that it has been nearly 60 years since a Republican ruled City Hall. He knows the numbers are stacked against him, what with registered city Democrats outnumbering Republicans nearly 5-1.

And Taubenberger surely watched last month as Democrat Michael Nutter did the unthinkable and ran away with the prize in his party's five-way primary.

Still, he is the voice of optimism. "A year ago," says Taubenberger, gleefully, "nobody thought that Michael Nutter would win the Democratic primary."

Besides, he says, "I've got nothing to lose."

Such is the world of the underdog candidate in a race that much of Philadelphia sees as over.

Nutter can hardly walk a few steps without somebody clamoring for his picture, a handshake, a mere nod.

On Friday afternoon, Taubenberger sat for more than an hour inside a popular and crowded Port Richmond cafe, not far from his home turf in Northeast Philadelphia.

One customer waved, from afar.

"The possibility is there," he said, over a filet-tip sandwich and a seltzer. "In the history of the city, we've never had a mayor from Northeast Philly, and people are pretty excited about that."

And there's this: "There's no Republican or Democratic way to collect the trash. I think [voters] will give me a fair shake."

So the 53-year-old president of the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce marches on.

His 12-person policy committee is meeting every Thursday at the law firm offices of Republican Party leader Michael Meehan.

He's asking everybody he knows to donate to his campaign. (Last month, he reported having $8,000 on hand.)

And he's buying a BlackBerry.

"I was advised by a number of people who are near and dear that it is a quicker way to communicate," he said.

In fact, friends have been telling him that for months, but he decided to take action after the words came from Mayor Street's lips. The mayor invited Taubenberger in last week for a private lunch in City Hall to update him, as he did Nutter the week before, on city finances.

"He said, 'You're running for mayor! You don't have a BlackBerry? You better get one.' " Then Street, a known gadget geek, took out his own and "showed me all the things you can do with it."

In addition, Taubenberger has a secret weapon: William, his 7-year-old son. And he's ready to spring him into action, should he raise the funds, to counter Nutter's 12-year-old daughter, Olivia, who won over primary voters with her TV-ad plea that her father was just a regular ol' dad.

Though William goes to private school, the older Taubenberger kids (Matt is 30, Elizabeth, 25, and Sarah, 18) sat in the classrooms of Philadelphia's public schools - just like Olivia.

For now, his state of mind, really, is summed up by his simple, single-page Web site, "Mike, congratulations! You did it. You're the man of the hour," it begins.

The ending? "Get some rest. I'm going to keep you busy in the Fall."

Contact staff writer Marcia Gelbart at 215-854-2338 or

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