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Local socialites and politicos crammed into the Pennsylvania Convention Center last night for a tribute to Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell. Perhaps the greatest single tribute of the evening was President Clinton's effusive praise for the outgoing mayor's achievements. "I knew that he was committed to turning this city around," Clinton said, adding that there is "nobody in America, nobody who does it better." About 1,800 hundred people, who each paid $1,000 to attend, were jammed into the ballroom, drinking red wine and dining upon sea bass and filet mignon. Officials estimated that the fundraising dinner will raise more than $2 million for Rendell's campaign committee. Rendell, who Clinton recently appointed general chairperson of the Democratic National Committee, is expected to launch his own gubernatorial bid in 2002. His second four-year term as mayor ends on January 3. The president heavily recruited Rendell to take on the DNC job two months ago, seeking him out for his powerful fundraising capabilities. Starting in January, Rendell will spend extensive time acquiring funds for Democratic candidates. Clinton said he was "profoundly honored" to be present at the event. "I have a lot to be grateful to Ed Rendell for," he said. "The results are here." Rendell himself spoke affectionately about his time as mayor. "Every day I've gotten up and known that I've had the opportunity to change the quality of people's lives. It just makes you feel great," he said. The program began with a dramatic choral rendition of the national anthem. David L. Cohen, Rendell's former chief of staff and the event's master of ceremonies, then introduced the evening with glowing remarks about his former boss. "[Rendell is] the best mayor in the history of the City of Philadelphia," Cohen said. The more-than-kind words for "America's Mayor" continued with a short video that highlighted Rendell's achievements. Celebrating Rendell's eight years in office, the video talked about the "turnaround" in Philadelphia, noting the improvements in public services, safety and the economy. "He has lifted the spirits of the city," boomed the voice-over, as positive news headline and photos of Rendell shaking elderly people's hands flashed across the screen. The final words wafted through the darkened room: "No matter where he goes or what he does, he will always be Ed Rendell -- the mayor." After waxing sentimental about his mayoral achievements, Rendell thanked the audience for their political -- and financial -- support. "The people in this room are not just good political supporters," he said. "They are people, who when the chips were down for the city? they put their money down." Other local political figures were at the convention center last night, including U.S. Reps. Chakah Fattah and Robert Borski, local party chairperson U.S. Rep. Bob Brady and City Council President Anne Verna. Rendell thanked all the members of local government for their hard work during his tenure and wished the best to his successor, former City Council President John Street. "I believe he's going to surprise everyone and make a great mayor," Rendell said. Although the popular outgoing mayor's impact may be impossible for Philadelphia to forget, each guest received a lasting momento of the Rendell years. They all left clutching a paperback copy of A Prayer for a City, the book by Penn alumnus Buzz Bissinger chronicling Rendell's first term in office.

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