- The Washington Times - Monday, November 3, 2003

PHILADELPHIA — Incumbent Mayor John F. Street, the subject of an FBI investigation into corruption, is enjoying a slight bump in the polls here over challenger Sam Katz going into tomorrow’s election.

About two weeks before voters took to the polls, Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson — conducting a “routine” sweep — found an FBI listening device in the Democratic mayor’s office. News stories containing FBI leaks, subpoenas and inquiries into cronyism in Mr. Street’s administration turned a “ho-hum” race into one of the hottest in the nation.

“It was quite a shock for all this to happen in the middle of the campaign, and I think the timing of it and intensity and irregularity of the leaks are probably the most distressing part of this,” Mr. Street said.

Neither Mr. Street nor Mr. Katz, Republican, were gaining ground with voters before the first week in October. The two were locked in a statistical dead heat. A poll done by the Philadelphia Inquirer showed Mr. Street had a 5 percent lead with 46 percent of voters leaning his way and 41 percent for Mr. Katz — with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.7 percentage points.

Last week, new polls by the Daily News and Fox Philadelphia Keystone Poll showed increased Democratic voter participation and increased support for Mr. Street by as much as 13 percent.

The discovery of the bug forced usual campaign rhetoric about political agendas to the back pages of the newspapers and short segments on the television news.

U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, Democrat, called it a Republican conspiracy to put a conservative in the mayor’s office.

“They investigated Bill Clinton, subpoenaed bank records, e-mails and they’re doing the same thing to John Street,” Mr. Fattah said at a voter-participation rally attended by Mr. Clinton.

But the Republican challenger is facing legal troubles of his own. Mr. Katz has been accused of fraud by three former business partners in an embezzlement case.

“This has been like standing in the middle of a blizzard. Trying to run a campaign during an FBI investigation and with the racial charges by Street and his supporters was very difficult, especially on the issues,” Mr. Katz said.

Abdullah Muhammad, 57, a supporter of Mr. Street, said the race was an afterthought for most people until the FBI got involved.

“The sense before this was that the black community wasn’t going to come out to vote, but it motivated us, because this is a Democratic town and a black town, and we aren’t going to let them throw out a brother out like that,” Mr. Muhammad said.

Even some Republican voters find the FBI investigation hard to swallow considering Mr. Street hasn’t been charged with any crime.

“I was a strong supporter of Katz,” said Vicki DiLauria, 46, of South Philadelphia. “I am not a fan of Mayor Street’s … but I think this whole [investigation] reeks of unfairness,” she said.

Mr. Katz, in three separate comments made last week, began distancing himself from his party.

“In a town like this, you need Democrats to win,” Mr. Katz said.


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