The Democrats in Philadelphia probably hope that the mayoral election will end the way last night's on-campus candidates forum did -- with only the Democrats left. Three Republican and four Democratic candidates for mayor were in attendance at the start of the forum, held in International House, but the Republican candidates left one by one as the night went on. Republican Dennis Wesley was the first to leave -- abruptly announcing during his opening remarks his intent to run as an independent candidate, and immediately leaving followed by a pack of reporters and cameramen. Former District Attorney Ron Castille, the party's endorsed candidate, left just before the closing statements and Sam Katz soon followed after delivering his closing statement. Wesley's early departure provided the most significant development of the night as all seven candidates mainly rehashed and restated established positions. In making his announcement, Wesley told the audience that Katz and the Republican City Committee had filed a challenge to the signatures he had filed in his petition for candidacy. Wesley said last night he filed 1187 signatures and if 187 are disqualified he will be forced out of the race. It is unclear whether election regulations would allow Wesley to make such a switch. He also said he may drop out of the race entirely and support one of the other Republicans. Following brief opening remarks from each candidate, five panelists asked questions of the candidates on topics ranging from financial and racial problems to crime. The candidates then took two questions from the standing-room-only audience of over 300 students, faculty and community members. Throughout the forum, Democrat Peter Hearn, a graduate of the University's Law School, emphasized his independence from current city politics. "I have no buddies, no baggage, no entanglements," Hearn said. "It's a clean slate." Castille spoke about his 20-year career as a public servant -- most recently as District Attorney -- and said the new mayor must make tough choices to balance the city budget and restore credibility to the city. Democrat James White, the former Managing Director for Mayor Wilson Goode's administration, told the audience he wants to run a fair campaign and said he would serve as a role model for city youth as a first step in working for improvements in the educational system. Democrat Ed Rendell, a University graduate, said the new mayor should serve as a leader who will motivate others and make changes in both morale and substance throughout the city. Rendell received perhaps the most enthusiastic applause of the evening when he compared the situation in the Persian Gulf to the city's plight. "It was very important to liberate Kuwait City," Rendell said. "It is just as important to liberate Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia." Katz, a municipal finance expert, said he has helped other major cities with problems similar to those Philadelphia is facing. He also challenged Castille, the only other Republican candidate still in attendance at the time, to a one-on-one debate. Democrat George Burrell, who is a former City Council member and a University graduate, emphasized the importance of a mayor and a City Council that can cooperate and get things done. He also alluded to his past experience as a city leader. "This is not a place for on-the-job training," Burrell said. Several students said the forum was interesting and helped change their minds about some of the candidates. Leonid Kritskov, a student from Moscow State University participating in an exchange program with the University, said that the candidates were comparitively calm and had closer contact with their constituents than many politicians in the Soviet Union. There, he said, people "have a feeling that the candidates have some games -- dirty games -- behind them." President Sheldon Hackney and the panelists, including Channel 6 reporter Vernon Odom, Professor of Public Policy and Management Anita Summers, University Police Commissioner John Kuprevich, Graduate and Professional Students Assembly Chairperson Susan Garfinkel, and Daily Pennsylvanian Executive Editor Helen Jung, remained largely in the background while the candidates laughed at each other's jokes and passed notes to one another. Connaissaince Chair Richard Smith said yesterday the group will hold an open meeting for feedback on the forum at 8 p.m. tonight in Bishop White Room in Houston Hall.Comments powered by Disqus
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