Last night's romp to victory by Edward Rendell may have appeared effortless, but the scratches on Frannie Wachstein's hands tell a different story. "My heart was there," Wachstein, a volunteer for the Rendell campaign, said last night. "I worked body and soul." The intensity of Rendell's year-long campaign paid off as he garnered 68 percent of the vote, the largest victory in a mayoral election in recent history. But the sweeping victory was distant in time and nature from the early days of the primary campaign when he battled four strong opponents. Even this spring after his primary victory, Rendell girded for a tough battle with Republican nominee Frank Rizzo. Not until Rizzo's death this summer was the path clear for the 1965 College alumnus. While political figures have jumped on the Rendell bandwagon in the past few weeks as victory appeared imminent, last night's Warwick Hotel celebration in Center City was overrun by longtime supporters, many of whom, like Wachstein, have intensely personal reasons for supporting Rendell. Wachstein, a white-haired great-grandmother from the city's West Oak Lane section, sported a "Rendell for Mayor" t-shirt, a white ski cap, navy sweatpants and velcro-closed sneakers. She said she has worked tirelessly before both the primary and general election for Rendell. During the past year, Wachstein has stuffed envelopes, worked phone banks and followed him around from campaign stop to campaign stop "doing whatever needed to be done." Her last task for the campaign was preparing the Warwick Hotel ballroom for last night's 400-person victory party. She and nearly a dozen other volunteers spent yesterday afternoon blowing up balloons and setting up furniture and decorations, cutting up her hands and wearing her out. But she said it was Rendell's energy that inspired her -- "I felt I had to keep going and help him." Wachstein and the packed house of supporters reveled in announcements about Rendell's landslide victory. Several other campaign workers and supporters danced in the ballroom during the night, pausing only for election returns and the concession speech of Republican candidate Joseph Egan. Egan's remarks drew polite applause from the group, but the crowd booed vehemently when Senator Arlen Specter appeared on television to comment on the race. Egan said last night that his late entry into the race was an insurmountable obstacle. "I think the inability to raise money and get the message out hurt me," Egan said. "There were a series of issues that hurt us. I don't want to make excuses." The crowd was composed of a cross-section of Rendell's supporters, as businessmen sporting Armani suits sat near Budweiser-toting union leaders. After Egan's concession, the crowd continued to watch television election updates until it was clear Harris Wofford would win the Senate election. Afterward, supporters danced around the room waiting for Rendell to arrive. A group of staff members at Rendell's law firm -- Mesirov, Gelman, Jaffee, Kramer and Jamieson -- gathered near the podium dancing wildly to "Tequila" and 1960s songs while shaking "Rendell for Mayor" placards. They also showed Polaroid snapshots of Rendell from earlier in the day, when he stopped by the law offices. "It's very exciting," co-worker Ceil Mangini said. "He's a great guy." But one person attending the rally was not a diehard Rendell fan. "I'm here looking for a job," Edwin Williams said last night, bringing out copies of his resume to show to anyone who spoke to him. Rendell arrived at the Warwick just before 11 p.m. and was lead to the podium between a human fence of police officers and hotel security staffers. The mayor-elect said Egan did "a lot better than people give him credit for." "It takes a strong person to jump into the breach [and run for mayor]," Rendell said. "The city owes a deep debt of gratitude to Joe Egan." The mayor-elect promised announcements in the next few days concerning the course his administration would take. "I want to change . . . virtually everything we do in this city," Rendell said after his speech. "[There are] good ideas out there. We must implement some." Rendell also said he was "pleased" with the turnout, adding it was "much higher than the cynics predicted." And Rendell thanked his volunteers, whose personal commitment he called "great, great . . . absolutely great." Roxborough resident Freda Sherman, one of the Rendell volunteers who had been with the campaign since its inception, said last night she volunteered for the campaign to keep a long-standing promise to herself. Three years ago, Sherman said, Rendell helped her daughter retain a city job. After the job was originally promised to Sherman's daughter, the department's supervisor offered the job instead to someone else -- someone who scored lower than she did on the civil service exam. After writing to several people, including Mayor Wilson Goode, Sherman said only Rendell -- who was not then an elected official -- responded to her complaint. Within a few days after being reoffered the job as a result of Rendell's help, Sherman said, her daughter died of influenza. "I never told them why I worked for him," she said. Staff writers Jordana Horn and Margaret Kane contributed to this story.Comments powered by Disqus
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