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Former Mayor Ed Rendell endorses Rebecca Rhynhart, becoming third former mayor to back her

Updated: May 3

No candidate for Philadelphia mayor has in recent memory been endorsed by three predecessors.

Edward G. Rendell, former Philadelphia mayor and ex-governor of Pennsylvania, speaks during an announcement at the Independence Visitor Center in March. He is endorsing Rebecca Rhynhart for Philadelphia mayor.

MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer

by Anna Orso

Updated on Apr 26, 2023, 3:24 p.m. ET

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell on Wednesday endorsed Rebecca Rhynhart for Philadelphia mayor, becoming the third ex-mayor to back her candidacy.

Rendell, a former district attorney who was elected mayor in 1991, said that while other candidates are “excellent public servants,” Rhynhart “has the greatest depth and broadest experience in the government’s executive branch.”

“Based on her experience, her record as an elected official, and her personal character, I believe Rebecca Rhynhart is the best choice,” Rendell said in a statement.

No candidate for Philadelphia mayor in recent memory has been endorsed by three predecessors. Rhynhart, the former city controller, is also supported by Michael A. Nutter and John F. Street, political rivals who are now appearing alongside one another in Rhynhart’s campaign commercials.

The high-profile endorsement from Rendell, the gregarious former mayor who steered the city through immense fiscal uncertainty, could prove significant for Rhynhart in the final weeks of campaigning ahead of the May 16 primary election. She’s running in a crowded field of nine Democrats, and at least four of her rivals have viable paths to victory.

Rendell called on Rhynhart to hire some of her opponents, specifically naming former City Councilmembers Allan Domb and Cherelle Parker, as well as Maria Quiñones Sánchez and Derek Green, both of whom suspended their campaigns for mayor.

“Doing this would take advantage of the talent of these candidates,” Rendell said, “and this ‘team of rivals’ would be more than strong enough to raise the morale of our citizens and to effectuate a 180-degree turn in Philadelphia’s fortunes.”

In a statement, Rhynhart said Rendell’s endorsement is an “honor” and touted that her campaign now has the support of three former mayors, each of whom served two terms.

“Their confidence in my leadership means a great deal to me,” she said, “and further proves that I have the knowledge, experience, and courage to lead our city forward — making it safer and cleaner and providing our residents with true opportunity.”

Rhynhart, who worked on Wall Street before joining Nutter’s administration in 2008, served for five years as the independently elected city controller, responsible for auditing government agencies and rooting out waste. She’s running for mayor on a pledge to make government more efficient, and she has touted that she is the only candidate with executive-level government experience.

Both Nutter and Rendell have for years supported Rhynhart’s political ambitions and have contributed to her campaigns. Rendell endorsed her first run for office in 2017, when she challenged then-Controller Alan Butkovitz, a three-term incumbent who had the support of the Democratic Party. Rhynhart won in a decisive upset.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Rendell said at the time. “I thought we had a good chance to win, but I never thought we’d win 58% to 40%. Good God.”

Rebecca Rhynhart greets voters after a forum at the First District Plaza in West Philadelphia earlier this month.

Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer

Rhynhart’s mayoral campaign has paid Street $55,000 since November, according to campaign-finance reports. The campaign said he is working as a senior adviser and is compensated as a staff member. No similar payments were made to Nutter or Rendell, records show.

Rendell hasn’t endorsed in the last two competitive mayor’s races. In 2000, he backed Street, who was Council president when Rendell was mayor and then succeeded Rendell in the Mayor’s Office.

During a news conference Thursday with Rhynhart, Rendell said the race “could be decided by a couple hundred votes” and gave his views on the top contenders.

”This is a very fluid race because there are so many candidates, because there was so little known about most of the candidates,” Rendell told reporters. “Jeff Brown got off to a big lead because he had that early money, and he’s run into some stumbles. I think Allan Domb has done well. I think Cherelle has done well. I think Helen Gym has a very dedicated group of followers.”

Rendell said Rhynhart was best positioned to win support from neighborhoods across the city, as opposed to running up the score in one demographic or area.

”Rebecca is the only candidate, I think, who can get substantial help from all groups,” Rendell said. “But it’s going to be a tough race.”

Mayor Jim Kenney has not made an endorsement in this year’s race (though he has had a rocky relationship with Rhynhart, so if he does endorse, it’s not likely she’d get the nod). The other living Philadelphia mayors are Bill Green III and W. Wilson Goode.

The winner of the May 16 Democratic primary election will be well-positioned to win in the November general election, given Philadelphia’s heavily Democratic electorate. Former Councilmember David Oh is running unopposed for the Republican nomination.

Inquirer reporter Sean Collins Walsh contributed reporting.

Published April 26, 2023

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