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Joe Biden speaks at 30th street train station with Mayor Nutter and transportation secretary Ray LaHood to announce federal funding for high speed rail Credit: Megan Falls

The only person to emerge as a challenger to Philadelphia Mayor and Penn alumnus Michael Nutter in May’s Democratic primary announced his candidacy while standing on the back of a pickup truck on 52nd and Market streets.

Milton Street, who spent 30 months in federal prison for tax evasion, is so far the only challenger in a 2011 mayoral race looking increasingly one-sided.

This comes in spite of a recent poll by Franklin and Marshall College and the Philadelphia Daily News where 53 percent of respondents answered that Nutter has not done a good enough job to deserve reelection.

While Street’s candidacy may have “gained a lot of attention,” it hasn’t necessarily gained the support needed to pose a real challenge to Nutter, said Luke McKinstry, an intern at the Committee of Seventy, a non-partisan elections watchdog group.

The lack of Democratic opponents to challenge Nutter indicates that a “lot of cowards” are willing to complain about Nutter’s policies but not step up and run,” said John Featherman, a Republican candidate for mayor.

Featherman, who has not received official endorsement from the Republican Party, thinks that criticism levied at Nutter by other Democratic politicians has opened a chance for Featherman to pose a threat in November.

“A lot of the wounding to his own campaign has already been done within his own party ... so I think my chances are good,” he said.

For now, the Nutter campaign is focusing on various issues plaguing Philadelphia.

“Campaign time is a season to talk about various issues, to talk about accomplishments and future goals,” Nutter Campaign spokeswoman Sheila Simmons said.

Various other potential candidates who were expected to stage a campaign against Nutter have instead opted to endorse him, such as businessman Tom Knox, who ran against Nutter in the Democratic Primary in 2007 and finished second.

The lack of a viable opponent is not surprising for an incumbent in a city that leans so heavily to one side of the political spectrum, St. Joseph’s University history professor and political analyst Randall Miller said.

In addition, Nutter’s formidable fundraising sources and prominent endorsements from politicians such as former governor Ed Rendell “essentially tell any potential candidates, ‘don’t bother,’” Miller said.

“Nobody out there has the amount of cash, potential, name visibility nor organization to beat Nutter,” Miller continued.

“On a basic level, it’s important for any healthy democratic system to have checks and balances, competition and to hold elected officials accountable ... which comes through competitive elections,” McKinstry said.

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