GOP opportunity to run for mayor goes begging

Posted: February 16, 2011

The Republican Party, which hasn't had a mayor of Philadelphia in nearly six decades, can't find a candidate to endorse in the primary election.

Instead, the party may have at the top of the ticket this year a Republican who is just as interested in challenging the GOP leadership as he is in taking on Mayor Nutter in November.

Local GOP Chairman Vito Canuso yesterday confirmed that there was no recommendation for mayor at last night's endorsement meeting but declined to comment about unsuccessful party efforts to recruit a candidate.

John Featherman, a GOP committeeman from Chinatown, announced in June his campaign for mayor, making clear he hopes to reinvigorate a stagnant party.

Brett Mandel, a Democrat who finished third in an unsuccessful 2009 challenge to City Controller Alan Butkovitz, said yesterday he turned down a request last week from Al Taubenberger and former state Rep. George Kenney to consider switching parties to run for mayor as a Republican.

Taubenberger, the GOP nominee who faced Nutter in 2007, was endorsed by his party last night in his bid for a City Council at-large seat.

"The fact that nobody would want to use [a mayoral candidacy] as a platform to expand their name in the Republican Party says something about what the Republican Party is up against," Mandel said.

A proposal at the meeting last night to back Councilman Frank Rizzo for mayor did not find much support. The party did not endorse Rizzo in his bid for another term on Council.

Of the city's one million-plus voters, there are about 800,000 Democrats, 127,000 Republicans and 89,000 independents.

The local GOP finished 2010 with less than $3,000 in the bank, meaning it would have limited resources for a mayoral candidate.

Rick Hellberg, a financial adviser who challenged U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah last year, on Monday turned down Canuso's request that he run for mayor.

Gene Cohen, a retired Common Pleas judge now in private legal practice, said he had a "fleeting thought" of running for mayor, but decided against it.

Malcolm Lazin, executive director of Equality Forum, was approached by local GOP leaders to run for mayor but declined, several sources said yesterday.

Lazin, who was also endorsed last night for a Council at-large bid, declined to comment.

Taubenberger yesterday called a GOP mayoral run a "a very good opportunity for someone to get their message out and to get to know the city."

He expects that his run for mayor four years ago will benefit his campaign for Council.

The GOP last night also endorsed Joe McColgan, David Oh and John Giordano for Council at large. The GOP didn't endorse state Rep. Denny O'Brien and Marie Delanie, who runs Overington House, a facility for homeless women in the Northeast, in their at-large bids.

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