Katz quits PICA, maybe to open mayoral bid?

Sam Katz has run for mayor three times, governor once.
Sam Katz has run for mayor three times, governor once.
Posted: February 21, 2014

PHILADELPHIA When the legislature created a financial oversight board in 1991 to help Philadelphia through a budget crisis, some lawmakers fretted about the agency's becoming a springboard to elected office.

So they added a provision that members of the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA) could not seek public office within a year of service on the board.

Twenty-three years later, that restriction has hit home.

By resigning Wednesday as PICA chairman, Sam Katz, the three-time mayoral candidate now making documentaries on Philadelphia history, opened the door to a possible run for mayor next year.

"That's a great question," he told a reporter asking about a potential campaign. "I don't really have an answer."

His exit from the PICA board will keep his options open.

Running as a Republican, Katz came within 10,000 votes of defeating Democrat John F. Street in the 1999 mayoral race. He also ran in 1991, losing to Frank L. Rizzo in the GOP primary, and in 2003, when he won the Republican nomination but lost to Street, the incumbent, by more than 77,000 votes.

Reached by telephone Wednesday, Katz said he was still focused on the documentary films he began making several years ago. He isn't running for mayor or exploring a candidacy, he said.

On the other hand, he acknowledged: "I've been thinking about running for mayor since I was 8 years old. I never stop thinking about it."

Katz handicapped his own chances of running and winning next year as unlikely, either as a Republican - in a city where the GOP is outnumbered more than 6-1 - or in the Democratic primary, where Katz would be branded as a Republican.

"It doesn't look promising," he said.

Neil Oxman, the campaign advertising strategist who helped to shape Katz's 1999 mayoral campaign, agreed.

"Running as a Republican, the question for Sam would be, will the Democratic candidate, whoever that turns out to be, be as unacceptable to a large group of people as John Street was in 1999?" Oxman said.

"And if he tried to run as a Democrat," Oxman continued, "people would remember that he supported [Republicans] Rick Santorum, George Bush, and all that stuff - policies that most people would say have hurt urban areas around the country and Philadelphia in particular."

Katz noted that if he runs, he'd have to raise campaign money even as he continues to rely on public and foundation support for his documentaries.

"Fund-raising for politics would undermine fund-raising for the films," he said. "That's my business. That's my job, and I need to do my job."

Still, he admitted to not always being the best predictor of his own political moves - which along with the 1991, 1999 and 2003 mayoral runs included a race for the GOP gubernatorial nomination that he lost to Tom Ridge in 1994.

"After 1991," Katz recalled Wednesday, "I said I'd never run for anything again."


warnerb@phillynews.com

215-854-5885 @bobwarner1

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