Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Fed-Up Philadelphia Voters May Clean Political House

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Fed-Up Philadelphia Voters May Clean Political House

Article excerpt

WHENEVER Leon Williams attends a session of the Philadelphia City Council, which is more often than not, he sits in the visitors' gallery and holds up a $7 broom.

"We need to clean this place out," says Mr. Williams, when asked about his silent protest. "I brought my broom as a symbol."

Philadelphia's budget mess has voters so frustrated that they are talking about sweeping out their elected officials this spring. The anti-incumbent sentiment is one of the few clear themes in an otherwise confusing and volatile campaign.

"Everyone is looking for alternatives to the current pols," says John Claypool, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia First Corporation, a business-led civic group. Outsiders make inroads

Already, two outsiders have made some inroads in the race for mayor, says Ted Hershberg, professor of public policy and history at the University of Pennsylvania.

Republican Sam Katz had little name recognition in November. Yet, when paired against Frank Rizzo, the city's well-known former mayor, he ran only about 10 points behind, according to a survey of registered Republicans by Temple University's Michael Hooper. Democrat Peter Hearn was also virtually unknown in November but has raised his visibility in more recent polls with an extensive media blitz.

The question is whether the current mood will create a groundswell when the city holds its primary elections May 23. Several politicians and political analysts don't think the current budget fiasco will sway many voters to oust incumbents.

"They understand that we lost a lot of federal funds - that we really got hurt by the recession," says John Street, a powerful city councilman.

"The situation is so complex and there are so many different players here ... that it's almost impossible for any kind of uniform effect to take place," says Professor Hooper. …

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