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The Dem. won in a 50-49 percent split Drawing to a close the most competitive mayoral election in recent Philadelphia history, Democrat John Street slipped by Republican Sam Katz last night by a single percentage point. With 96 percent of precincts reporting, Street claimed victory with 50 percent of the vote, while Katz took in 49 percent. Street squeaked by with just 7,200 votes more than Katz as of early this morning. The remaining ballots were cast for Constitution Party candidate John McDermott, who finished with 1 percent. Hundreds of loyal and enthusiastic supporters packed the Warwick Hotel in Center City for Street's official election night party, aptly titled "Victory '99." With updates pouring in all night that consistently showed Street ahead, the crowd never lost its spirit. For hours they waved signs and cutouts of Street's head and cheered at the tops of their lungs. And when the victor finally stepped to the microphone at around 1:30 a.m., they erupted in applause for the next mayor of Philadelphia. Street, 56, used his victory speech to call on both his supporters and detractors to work toward a common goal. "It is now time for us to bring this city together," said Street, who served as City Council president for seven years under Mayor Ed Rendell. "It's time for us to set aside our differences. It is time for us to come together as one great city, to make the progress that we need to make during the course of the next millennium." Just a few block away at the Park Hyatt at the Bellevue Hotel, Katz -- who called to concede the race and congratulate Street at around 1 a.m. -- said he was proud of the city for listening to his ideas. "I can say with every ounce of sincerity, we did as well as anyone could have expected," said Katz, 49, who mounted the first competitive Republican campaign the city has seen in three decades. Street, who will become Philadelphia's second-ever African-American mayor, was joined on stage by many of the region's Democratic elite, including Rendell, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, city Democratic Party chairperson and U.S. Rep. Robert Brady and several prominent City Council members. Attorney Marty Weinberg and State Rep. Dwight Evans, two of Street's primary election opponents who pledged their support to the former City Council president, were also in attendance. In his victory speech, Street shared some of his visions for Philadelphia's future. "As I embark on this new responsibility, I'm going to ask everyone here? to give us a chance," Street said. "Give us a chance. Give us an opportunity to provide the leadership in this city. Give us an opportunity to help this city reach its potential." Street's controversial past during his 19 years in City Council nearly cost him the election in a city which hasn't elected a Republican mayor in 52 years. Many white Democrats chose to cross party lines, but in the end the GOP was not able to overcome the 4 to 1 Democratic advantage in Philadelphia. "I really haven't been perfect," Street acknowledged during his speech. "But I have never tried, never intentionally, to do anything that was against the interests of our great city." Street was also quick to commend his adversary, thanking Katz for a worthy and productive challenge that stayed remarkably clean and issues-based. "I want to thank him because he ran a brilliant campaign," Street said. "He tested our capacity and our work ethic. He made us work in a way that all of us can know that we have really earned this victory." The victory did not go unnoticed, and was watched around the nation as a bellwether for the 2000 national elections. Street said he received congratulatory phone calls from President Clinton -- who appeared at a Street rally in Philadelphia last Friday -- and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, a Republican. Street saved particular praise for Rendell, the popular outgoing mayor who acted as his most visible -- and perhaps most vital -- mentor and supporter. "Ed Rendell didn't just write a check or two, although he did write a check or two," Street said. "He shared with us the benefit of his experience as a candidate, as a person who was not only a great mayor but a person who understands the political process in this city and in this state in a way that is almost unparalleled by most of us." This year's mayoral campaign was the most expensive in United States history, exceeding the $23 million mark. The candidates battled furiously over the last eight weeks over issues of economic reform, education and neighborhood development. Katz, a former business executive, repeatedly used his campaign mantra of "running the city like a business." He pledged to cut the city wage tax from 4.6 percent to an even 4 percent -- a move Street continually attacked as fiscally irresponsible. Street continued to tout his partnership with Rendell throughout the campaign and focused on the Rendell program of modest tax cuts that would maintain a steady level of city services.

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