Sam Katz rules out run for Phila. mayor as a Democrat

Sam Katz in 2003. "I have decided not to enter the 2011 Democratic primary for mayor," Katz said Monday.
Sam Katz in 2003. "I have decided not to enter the 2011 Democratic primary for mayor," Katz said Monday.
Posted: November 09, 2010

Through no action of his own, Mayor Nutter moved a step closer on Monday to keeping his job for another four years as three-time Republican mayoral candidate Sam Katz ruled out a fourth run for the office, this time as a Democrat.

Katz was the most well-known figure to be seriously and publicly contemplating a challenge against Nutter in the Democratic primary.

Another potential candidate, millionaire businessman Tom Knox, said Monday he was uncertain if he would get in the race - backing off a statement he made in September to run if Katz did not.

"I really want to run, but I want to make sure I'm not on a fool's errand," said Knox, who last January withdrew his candidacy for Pennsylvania governor and also in 2007 ran in the five-way Democratic mayoral primary. Knox was planning to meet with Katz on Monday or Tuesday to discuss findings from a poll he said Katz had previously commissioned. "I would like to see it is a winnable race," Knox said.

While some minor candidates from both parties will almost certainly appear on the May primary ballot - and the possibility exists that Katz will run as a Republican or independent candidate - for the moment, Nutter faces no known major reelection opposition, Democrat, Republican, or otherwise.

"[The mayor] doesn't take anything for granted," said Nutter campaign finance director Scott Freda. "We are going to run as hard as we did the first time around."

Speculation about Katz as a Nutter rival grew over the last few months as Katz met with dozens of city leaders and was being openly encouraged to get in the race by former Mayor John F. Street, who is no Nutter fan.

That speculation intensified last Thursday and Friday as Katz appeared on two local TV news programs and was interviewed on two radio stations, WHYY and KYW.

However, early Monday morning he released a statement by e-mail announcing he would not be a candidate. "While I believe that new leadership is needed, I have decided not to enter the 2011 Democratic primary for mayor. This was not an easy choice for me," Katz wrote.

The letter referred to "political and personal factors" as influencing his decision. Later, in an interview, Katz said: "If there is a political reason, it's conventional wisdom." He explained that many people he met with told him he had little chance of unseating an incumbent African American mayor. "There's no evidence they are wrong," added Katz, who is white.

Katz would also have faced stringent fund-raising rules that cap campaign contributions and that did not exist in his prior races.

A Democrat until he became a Republican in 1990, Katz ran for mayor in 1991, 1999, and 2003. In early 2007, he switched his party affiliation to "nonaffiliated," raising suspicions that he was preparing to run against Nutter as an independent candidate in the 2007 general election.

"I just think the guy did a virtually unbelievable job on every front," said Katz, who ultimately did not run, during a visit at Nutter's primary victory party.

While he liked candidate Nutter, though, Katz has been highly critical of Mayor Nutter and his administration. In his e-mailed statement Monday, he cited "a growing aggravation" with City Hall - "its unresponsiveness" and "its inability to help solve community problems."

Freda would not comment on Katz's remarks.

The mayor, Freda said, was focusing on governing - as well as laying some groundwork for his reelection campaign. He has hired a community-outreach coordinator, Dawn Chavous, who was until recently chief of staff to State Sen. Anthony Williams, a Democrat.

The mayor is also expected to hold a campaign fund-raiser at the W Hotel on Dec. 11, during the annual Pennsylvania Society gathering in New York City.

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

comments powered by Disqus