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Former Philly Mayor Michael Nutter endorses Rebecca Rhynhart, becoming second ex-mayor to back her

Updated: Mar 16

Rebecca Rhynhart was city treasurer and then budget director during Nutter's administration.

Rebecca Rhynhart speaks after being endorsed by former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter on Wednesday outside Philadelphia City Hall.Jose F. Moreno / Staff Photographer

by Anna Orso

Published Mar 15, 2023

Former Mayor Michael A. Nutter has endorsed Rebecca Rhynhart in this year’s mayoral race, becoming the second former mayor to throw his support behind her.

“Rebecca is the most well-rounded, experienced, and qualified candidate to lead Philadelphia into a much brighter future,” Nutter said during a press conference outside City Hall Wednesday.

Nutter has long been a supporter of Rhynhart, who was the city treasurer and then the budget director during his administration, which weathered the 2008 financial crisis and the Great Recession. She worked briefly in current Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration, and then served for five years as the independently elected city controller, who audits the municipal government.

Ex-Mayor John F. Street, who preceded Nutter, endorsed Rhynhart in January, saying with her experience as controller, she “can basically hit the ground running.”

Rhynhart’s campaign paid Street $22,000 in November, according to campaign-finance records.Her campaign said he is working as a senior adviser and is “compensated like any other consultant, advisor or staff member.” Nutter said he does not plan to work for the campaign, and no payments were made to him last year.

No other Philadelphia mayoral candidate in recent memory has been endorsed by two former mayors ahead of a Democratic primary. The high-profile backings could prove beneficial for Rhynhart, who is running on a platform of making the municipal government work more efficiently and often touts her experience working in two previous administrations.

In addition to Kenney, the other living Philadelphia mayors are Bill Green III, W. Wilson Goode, and Ed Rendell.

Rendell said Wednesday he may make an endorsement in the race but has not yet decided on whom. He said each of the major candidates “have a shot at being a good mayor, but we need the best mayor, and I haven’t decided who the best is.”

“There’s some people I like tremendously, but who haven’t generated enough resources or money to get on the radar screen,” he said. “But they could catch on. ...In politics, nine weeks is an eon of time.”

Rebecca Rhynhart and Michael Nutter shake hands in 2010 after he announces her appointment as budget director.

Clem Murray / Staff Photographer

While Rhynhart is the only candidate to be endorsed by ex-mayors, several of her rivals have also won coveted endorsements. A handful of labor unions have split among three candidates: former Councilmembers Cherelle Parker and Helen Gym, and grocer Jeff Brown.Gym is also being backed by a coalition of progressive organizations.

Some of those groups will pour money into campaign advertisements or launch robust get-out-the-vote programs. Mustafa Rashed, a Democratic political consultant, said those endorsements are likely more beneficial than the backing of a current or former elected official.

“In the mayor’s race, which is — outside of presidential politics — the most watched, well-known race in the city, people normally have enough of their own information to make a decision,” he said.

Rashed said what is compelling is that Rhynhart has in her corner both Nutter and Street, who were longtime political rivals.

Nutter ran for office in 2007 as the antithesis of Street, promising to restore integrity and ethics to City Hall after multiple corruption probes. The pair feuded publicly after both were out of office,with Street in 2016 calling Nutter “a petty, incompetent micromanager” and Nutter retorting that his predecessor was “an embarrassment to our city.”

On Wednesday, Nutter said his relationship with Street these days is “always respectful.” He said the fact that they both endorsed Rhynhart shows she “can work with a lot of different people who may not necessarily always agree on everything themselves.”

“Rebecca is a person who figures out a way to develop those lines of communication, make that bridge,” he said, “and those are the kinds of skills that you need in this city.”

Rhynhart said earning the endorsement represented “a full circle moment for me.”

“My journey as a public servant started with the Nutter administration,” she said. “It’s time for real change to make our city safer and cleaner, and I can be ready on day one to do just that.”

Published March 15, 2023

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