Butkovitz, 57, is an attorney, former state legislator and Democratic ward leader. Schmidt, 38, has a Ph.D. in political history and worked as an auditor for the U.S. Government Accountability Office. He was recently executive director of the Philadelphia Republican party.
Butkovitz said that he's running on a record of accomplishment. Since his 2005 election, he said that he's changed the office's focus from routine financial audits to more thorough performance reviews of critical city functions, such as the 9-1-1 system.
"We've also been very aggressive on collecting delinquent taxes and other measures to improve the city's cash position," Butkovitz said, noting that he's taken advantage of a little-noticed state law to begin withholding funds from the paychecks of municipal workers who owe the city money.
Schmidt has been running radio ads attacking Butkovitz's independence, saying that he was soft on the Philadelphia Parking Authority in a recent report.
Schmidt's message is simple: if you want a watchdog in a city run by Democrats, don't expect a Democratic ward leader like Butkovitz to do the job.
"I'm independent of the political class running this city," said Schmidt. "The current City Controller is a ward leader auditing agencies headed by other ward leaders on whom he depends for his re-election."
"It's an outrageous lie," Butkovitz said of Schmidt's criticism, noting that recent criticisms of the Clerk of Quarter Sessions, headed by Democratic ward leader Vivian Miller, had come from an audit by the Controller's office.
"Our office routinely does honest and critical audits of agencies all over the city, including the City Commissioners and City Council," Butkovitz said. "We tick people off on a regular basis."
Butkovitz called Schmidt "a right-wing Republican hatchet man, a $2,000 contributor to George Bush" who recently went to Harrisburg to lobby against Mayor Nutter's requests for a sales-tax hike and pension adjustments to avoid drastic service cuts.
"His sole purpose was to sow chaos, hoping that if there were disastrous cuts he could reap benefits from that," Butkovitz said.
Schmidt said that when he went to Harrisburg it was clear that the sales-tax increase would be approved. He said that he told Republican senators that as they assisted the city, they should require the city to be more financially responsible with its pension fund.
He acknowledged that he said that the city had not done enough to control spending. He said that he contributed to Bush's 2004 campaign because he believed strongly that Bush was superior to Democrat John Kerry on national-security issues.
Schmidt has made waves within his own party by being photographed smashing a Republican emblem for Philadelphia magazine, and by telling the Daily News that a powerful Republican ward leader had urged him to go easy on Butkovitz to protect patronage jobs.
Republican leaders Vito Canuso and Michael Meehan said that they still plan to support Schmidt's candidacy. "He's still our shining light," Canuso said.
Meehan said that he hopes that all the party's ward leaders and committeepeople will work hard for Schmidt, but added, "I can't control everybody."
Schmidt said that he's going to all the Republican ward meetings that will have him, and even attending Democratic ward meetings that are open to the public. He said that he calls first to make sure it's OK to come.
"I don't stand up and speak [at the Democratic meetings]," Schmidt said. "I'm respectful, there to listen and learn. I don't want my presence to be disruptive."
The candidates will meet in a debate on Monday, Oct. 26, sponsored by the League of Women Voters, the Committee of Seventy and the Fels Institute of Government.