"It's really been going on for a year or two already in a low-key way," said Zack Stalberg, president of the Committee of Seventy. "The passing of this presidential election means the mayoral race notches itself up a bit."
Candidates need to start planning several years out because of the city's fundraising limits. Candidates are restricted to raising $2,600 per individual and $10,600 per political committee in a single calendar year. The sooner they start raising money, the more times they can seek contributions from the same donors.
Political consultant Maurice Floyd, who supports Butkovitz, predicted that this year's Pennsylvania Society gathering of politicians in New York City in December will be a coming-out party of sorts for the mayor's race.
"You'll see people start to jockey in their own way to position themselves even though they'll be unannounced," Floyd said. "They'll do a lot more to give the public and the press notice. You'll probably start to hear from surrogates like me."
Residents should also expect to see the race's impact in policy-making decisions over the next few years, starting with the pending debate over the mayor's property-tax overhaul, the Actual Value Initiative. The shift to a tax system based on market values could hit some gentrified neighborhoods hard, and the potential candidates will have to decide how to handle the issue.
Kenney said the looming race will make this debate "more complicated."
"Nutter, who doesn't have an election on the horizon, will push for as much revenue as possible," Kenney said. "The millage rate argument is going to be intense."
Contact Catherine Lucey at email@example.com or 215-854-4172. Follow her on Twitter @PhillyClout. Read her blog at phillyclout.com.