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Michelle Obama speaks at Perelman Quadrangle for the Senate race. Credit: Laura Francis

For Penn’s political groups, the end of one election season means the start of another.

Philadelphia’s upcoming mayoral election will be the focus of efforts by Penn Democrats, Penn College Republicans and the Penn Tea Party.

College Republicans Treasurer and Wharton junior Charles Gray, a former Daily Pennsylvanian columnist, said though the group is intent on playing a role in the election, right now “the main thing we need is a candidate” to oppose current mayor and Penn alumnus Michael Nutter.

“There’s been a challenge in deciding who will step up” to challenge Nutter for the seat, Gray said, explaining that it may seem difficult to defeat an incumbent. “But I say, you never know until you try.”

According to the Philadelphia Daily News, former mayoral candidate Sam Katz announced Nov. 8 that he will not run again. He ran for mayor in 1991, 1999 and 2003 as a Republican. Katz prompted speculation about a fourth mayoral attempt when he left the party in 2007, but never ended up running that year.

According to Gray, graduated College Republicans members have told him Katz’ campaigns created “palpable excitement” on campus.

“This city needs an active debate about the issues and turn away from one-party rule,” Gray said, noting Democrats have held the mayor’s seat since 1952. Among matters to be discussed is the city’s financial situation.

“We need to know the fiscal path of this city,” he said, pointing to a need for “a rainy-day fund.”

“The city can’t print money like the national government. It has to make it work from year to year,” he added.

Penn Tea Party founder and Graduate School of Education student Dan Chinburg also believes fiscal responsibility should be at the forefront of the election season. According to him, legislation like Nutter’s proposed soda tax and $300 annual trash-collection fee are “hurting Philadelphia.”

“It’s been shown that fewer taxes grows the economy, and the government ends up with more revenue at the end,” Chinburg said.

Chinburg said the Penn Tea Party does not officially endorse or oppose candidates. However, “we can definitely protest and talk to our friends about how Nutter is doing,” he said.

“When [First Lady] Michelle Obama was on campus, I saw Nutter there too,” Chinburg said, referring to Obama’s Nov. 1. “I shouted, ‘Stop King George from enacting the Sugar Tax!’”

Penn Dems, however, will back Nutter for re-election. The group “has had a great relationship with Nutter since the day he was elected,” Legislative Director and College sophomore Isabel Friedman said.

According to Friedman, Nutter has “gotten some flak” for cutting social programs, pointing to his proposal to close 11 public libraries. “Just like every politician, he’s made difficult decisions in a tough economy,” she said. “They aren’t always popular, but we believe he’s making the right ones.”

Friedman said long-term plans could be disrupted with a new mayor. “We need to continue with what he set up,” she said, adding that “Philadelphia politics is not a machine — it’s always full of surprises.”

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