Mayor loses ballot fight & Milt says thanks for suing

Posted: March 22, 2011

WHAT ON Earth was Mayor Nutter thinking?

Political common sense says that Nutter should have acted as if T. Milton Street, his primary election foe in the race for mayor, doesn't matter or even exist.

Just ask Street.

"When you have $1.8 million and the power of the Mayor's Office, you ignore a candidate who just got out of prison," said Street, a former state legislator who was released last year after 26 months in federal custody for three misdemeanor counts of not paying his income taxes.

But Nutter last week challenged Street's eligibility to appear on the May 17 ballot. He lost that fight yesterday, when Common Pleas Judge Jimmy Lynn ruled in Street's favor.

Nutter was trying to prevent city residents unhappy with his record, especially the poor and formerly incarcerated, from having an alternative in the primary, Street said.

But Nutter, he said, did him a favor with the challenge, bringing more attention than a challenger could afford to pay for.

"Under the present campaign-finance laws, I couldn't have raised enough money to get this kind of coverage," Street said. "It's a godsend. One thing is for sure now: Everybody knows I'm running."

Nutter's campaign said that he will not appeal the ruling.

"Being mayor of the fifth-largest city in the country is a serious job, especially now with the serious challenges we face as a city," said Sheila Simmons, Nutter's spokeswoman. "That said, we accept the judgment of the court, and we're going to continue our work in talking to every Philadelphia voter that we can about the mayor's vision for the future and his accomplishments over the last three years."

Street said that he will get back to campaigning and looks forward to questioning Nutter's record.

"Oh, I want to debate him so bad," Street said. "So bad."

Nutter's campaign said that he has always debated opponents when he runs for office and expects to do the same with Street.

Nutter has been under attack from the Street family for a year now - first by former Mayor John Street and then by his brother. John Street attempted for several months to recruit a candidate, though not his brother, to challenge Nutter.

John Street upped the ante in September, hitting Nutter on his soft support in the African-American community. Street said that Nutter was not seen "as a black mayor."

Nutter's challenge to Milton Street had three main points: that he was ineligible to run because he has not been a city resident for three years, as the city charter requires; that some of his nominating petitions were circulated by people not registered to vote at the addresses they listed; and that some of the petitions included forged signatures.

Nutter's attorneys dropped all but the residency issue yesterday.

They argued that Street's previous listing of a Moorestown, N.J., address on federal documents and his stay at a federal prison in Kentucky made him ineligible.

Street countered that his "love interest" resides in Moorestown but that she kicked him out of that house in 2006, after federal investigators raided it.

After that, Street said, his address was in Philadelphia, he cited his successful bid in 2007 to run for City Council here. He finished 17th out of 19 candidates in that primary.

Staff writer Catherine Lucey contributed to this report.

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