November 6-12, 2003
Photo By: Michael T. Regan
How the mayor won his November Sweep.
Just before 7 a.m., Democrats and Republicans are hugging each other at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at 7301 Germantown Ave.
"We are not expecting any problems," says Susan Segal, Republican committeewoman for the Ninth Ward. "In fact, we don't even have to do much of anything as committee people because we have a very informed electorate here in Mt. Airy."
Moments later, Marilyn Lambert, the Ninth Ward Democratic committeewoman, echoes her counterpart's sentiments.
"We don't have to worry because we have a real mix of voters -- ethnically, sociologically, economically. These are very thoughtful voters who know the issues," she says.
It is very festive here at the place where George Washington launched the Battle of Germantown in 1777 as the gathered horde of media awaits the arrival of Sam Katz, scheduled to vote here in about half an hour.
The polls at St. Malachy's School haven't been open for five minutes and already, accusations are flying. The obligatory herd of reporters gathers, waiting for Mayor Street to arrive and cast his vote at 1429 N. Warnock St.
Tim Beck, a self-described Katz poll watcher, huddles in a corner with three beefy compatriots. "They refused me access to the books and the absentee-ballot list!" Beck says of pro-Street poll workers inside. "I asked for the list and they said, "That's not the way we do it here.' I've already challenged people and they've ignored me. They basically threw me out of the building." Beck then declares they're going to need a lawyer up here. His buddies agree and drive off seeking legal representation, leaving Beck behind. "I'm just here to ensure a free and fair election," Beck continues. "We believed the other side was capable of dirty tricks on Election Day, and it looks like we're right." Asked if an impartial judge would agree, Beck shrugs and says, "I hope we get the chance to find out."
About 40 minutes after the polls open, Street and his wife, Naomi Post, arrive arm-in-arm at St. Malachy to the applause of several enthusiastic campaign workers. Breezing past reporters, the couple enters the school, where Post signs up to vote and waits patiently in line -- like many people did, for longer spells than usual -- while the mayor chats up the school children and conducts an impromptu civics quiz. "Why should grown-ups vote?" Street asks the kids, whose answers range from well-informed to ridiculous. "You can be anything you want to be if you work hard and study and stay in school. Even the mayor of the city of Philadelphia!"
Street then walks across the room and signs in under the watchful eye of Beck, the poll worker who stealthily sneaked in with the reporters who are now falling over chairs and elbowing for position. Street spends about 30 seconds in the voting booth -- guess he didn't get to the confounded ballot questions -- emerging with a big smile and the requisite thumbs-up signal.
"You always want more time," Street says, answering a reporter's question of whether he'd have liked a longer campaign. "I think we did a great job, and I think we're going to have a good turnout. It's time for the people to have their say."
Voting across town in University City around the same time is Dr. Frank Cornett, an anesthesiology professor with the University of Pennsylvania. It wasn't to be an uneventful day at the polls, though he would have his say.
Recounting his Election Day experience for a gaggle of television cameras, Cornett says he saw someone putting Re-elect Street signs atop those supporting Katz. "You shouldn't be doing that," Cornett recalls saying. "I'll do whatever I want to," Cornett claims his Street-T-shirt-sporting nemesis responded before allegedly punching the side of Cornett's face, sending him for medical treatment at his workplace. Later, a police officer -- a pool of officers were assigned across the city to respond to election-related calls -- says Cornett suffered "a little scrape under his eye." The other fellow suffered a simple-assault charge.
It's impossible to miss the Katzmobile -- a customized minivan adorned with red, white and blue campaign slogans, stars and photos -- as it heads east on Allen Lane to the Lutheran Seminary. The mood here is still lighthearted until about 7:52, when the gaudy vehicle pulls up into the driveway of the stunning East Mt. Airy stone church. Katz emerges from the minivan with a scowl on his face and immediately launches into a litany of complaints that set the tone for what will be a very unfriendly day.
"This election got off to a violent start," Katz says, adding that, even at this early hour, his campaign workers are being subjected to attacks by "Street thugs."
Photo By Michael T. Regan
Local 98 electricians union workers and volunteers are using the Union Hall at 1719 Spring Garden St. as a way station for the day, and fresh coffee and food are available. The union is standing solidly behind Mayor Street because their jobs depend on it. Outside, business manager Johnny Dougherty is handing out cookies to workers. Dougherty, who is also the treasurer of the Democratic City Committee and a staunch supporter of the mayor, takes issue with the characterization of himself and the union using aggressive campaign tactics against Katz. "I'm not the boogieman," says Dougherty at 8 a.m. "I'm handing out cookies."
Rick Chisholm has been cutting hair at the Mecca Barber and Beauty shop at 15th and Cecil B. Moore for five years. He remembers the effect the last mayoral election had on the neighborhood and his clientele. Like in 1999, he says, the majority is voting for Street. "Maybe even more than last time," he prophetically predicts while deftly cutting a customer's hair. (One South Philly polling place is already at 50 voters, well above the norm.) Given an opportunity to make $100 working the polls today for either candidate, Chisholm decided against it. "I cut heads," he says. "That's what I'd rather be doing."
Fellow barber John Dennis, who says he's just out of prison after an eight-year stretch, feels a radical change in the neighborhood since his return. Abandoned cars? Gone. New businesses? Here.
"I see the mayor around here all the time, but I don't see Katz," says Dennis. "The mayor goes to church and goes to the laundromat right up here all the time. Do you think Katz is coming down here to hang out?"
A half-hour later, a poll worker who doesn't want to be identified smiles at the notion that only a few months ago, this corner was ground zero for campaign controversy. It was here, at the Martin Luther King Recreation Center, 22nd and Cecil B. Moore, that Joey Temple's verbal confrontation at Katz's campaign office led to his dismissal. (Remember the brick and alleged firebomb?) But this morning, all is quiet. Turnout is pretty good, which a poll worker considers good news for the incumbent. "The FBI probe really changed the race," he says. "People are voting on pride and emotion. And when emotion is involved, who knows what can happen?"
The Broad Street Diner at Ellsworth and Broad is packed at 10 a.m. So is the parking lot. The two parking attendants -- one black, the other white -- responsible for navigating the multitude of cars are leaning against the railing during a brief lull. "Yeah, I voted," says Frankie. "I'm telling you now, Street's gonna win. That's obvious. Been obvious to me." The other gentleman, an older black man with bright eyes and a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball cap, is more glib.
"People are voting against the federal government," he insists. "They're not voting against Katz, they're voting against Washington and Bush. People know they're trying to steal this election. The probe made people angry. Katz was in the lead not that long ago; he was ahead 46 to 40. But the probe changed things. People want to say it's about race. Not this time. This time it's all about Democrats and Republicans."
At 10:15 a.m., rows and rows of white vans with Street campaign signs are lined up in the usually empty, gated lot at Broad and Washington. Streams of young blacks wearing oversize white T-shirts that read "John Street for Mayor" are entering and leaving with handfuls of campaign literature. "The press is being directed to the Street campaign headquarters at 1601 Cherry St.," says a man who refuses to allow anyone inside the gates. "We have nothing to say. Turn off your cameras; you're not allowed to be here." A few feet away, another man calls out through the chainlink fence. "We're concentrating on distribution," he says. "You know, literature, things like that. But, we've got different people doing different things."
In the war for Philadelphians' hearts and minds, City Hall resembles a castle being bombarded on all sides by an invading army. Like Visigoths storming Rome, Katz supporters arrive in full force by 10:30 a.m., armed only with campaign signs and cloaked in blue T-shirts.
On the southern front, Students for Katz take the Broad Street median strips. They wave signs as motorists either honk or offer "Katz sucks" retorts. Mannwell Glenn, a radio talk-show host representing the lone Street supporter in the fray, hoots from a loudspeaker that is attached to the top of his burgundy Durango. Fearing a Republican conspiracy, he praises Street as a neighborhood mayor and contends that he needs "four more years" to finish the job. "We expect the kitchen sink to fall," Glenn says, alluding to the no-holds-barred campaign, "and we're going to throw it right back at them."
On the western front -- across the building from where one disgruntled voter would later profess support for the Unabomber rather than the two candidates -- more Katz folks keep rallying as they line the sidewalk facing 15th and Market, across from the Clothespin. Amidst the sea of Katz signs, 10 incumbent supporters hoist the letters that spell, "Vote Street." Miguel, a Street supporter, accuses the Katz supporters of not being authentic Philadelphians. He screams, "Y'all from the suburbs, we from North!" in attempt to be heard over the Katz camp. They fight a grade-school cafeteria-style verbal battle. "Sam Katz smokes crack," says one. Retorts a Katz supporter, "If that's the best you've got, we're gonna win."
In Nicetown, at the New Inspirational Baptist Church, Senior Pastor Barry J. Williams, Bishop of the National Pentecostal Baptist Fellowship Convocation, mingles on the front steps with Democratic and Republican poll watchers. Pastor Williams has endorsed Street. It was a decision he made a few weeks ago, when news of the FBI bugging made headlines.
Before the bug, Pastor Williams, whose church is one of the founding churches of the black clergy, was undecided. "They're both good men," he says, "and I know them both personally." After Williams took ill and was confined to a wheelchair in June, Katz visited him at New Inspirational and spoke to the parish.
Williams said New Inspirational was the first black church Katz spoke in, and the candidate brought tears to the eyes of the congregation. Still, the timing of the probe soured the Republican's platform.
Photo By Michael T. Regan
"You can find some dirt on everybody," Williams said, "but why wash our linen now?"
Mere minutes later, the race hits the big-time. Posted on CNN's website is a story about mayoral and gubernatorial races across the nation. The lede, of course, is about Philadelphia, complete with a picture of Street being followed by Channel 3's Walt Hunter and his microphone. The FBI bug, CNN says, made a "lackluster" campaign more exciting. Lackluster? Um, OK.
"I don't understand," says Sue Darragh at the Leprechaun Club in Northeast Philadelphia. "Where's the lever? What do I push?" Only Darragh's tiny black shoes and the bottom of her jeans peek from beneath the blue voting-machine curtain.
At 10:40 a.m., she draws back the curtain and again asks for help. "Can somebody show me how to do this?" Darragh is one of 530 people registered at the 25th Ward, 12th Division, a district with many elderly voters. For Darragh, this election isn't just about picking the best candidate -- it's about adapting to computerized machines late in life. "I've never used a computer before -- this was the first time," she says. "All those lights blinking I wasn't sure at first what I was supposed to press. The ballot is so complicated. I'm not sure if I did it right."
Just before 11 a.m., there's a small crowd gathered in front of the Frank Palumbo Elementary School at 11th and Catharine. A handful of whites wear Sam Katz shirts. A smaller number of blacks are supporting Street. A Katz campaign worker admonishes her own supporters. "People are complaining that they can't get past," she says. "They can't get in the doors. You have to move out of the way."
Grumbling, they move farther down the street. A Street campaign worker identifies a bigger problem. "There's so many of them," she says, referring to the Katz workers. "They just showed up -- outta nowhere. I gotta make a phone call and get some more Street people out here. This is bad." Moments later, a noisy Chevy pulls up to the curb. A young white man emerges from the car, carrying loads of Street campaign literature. "I'm here," he cheerily announces to his colleagues. ""Bout time" is the only response.
A fight breaks out inside the polling place at 11th and Jackson by midmorning. Mike Fera, boss of the cement workers union, says he was inside when a committeeman started an argument with an unregistered voter. Fera says he stopped the fight before punches were thrown. He adds that the committeeman tried to hit him over the head with a chair but that Fera's son stepped in and prevented further violence.
Sometimes, the simplest explanations can summarize an election. At 71st and Buist in Southwest Philly, a teacher turned arts grant writer arrives to cast her half-hearted vote for Street, who doesn't "need to be so mean-spirited." But who will win? "No one wants a Republican in office," she says.
An e-mail arrives from a politico sympathetic to the Katz camp at 11:42 a.m. The subject line reads, "Judge Orders Street Volunteer to Stop the Violence." It names a name (David Kushner) and makes mention of physical and verbal intimidation and coersion of voters, poll workers and election-board officials. (The Street camp will later deny that the man works for the campaign.)
"There's been an incident," says Nathan Raab, one of Katz's spokespeople, during an 11:49 a.m. cell-phone call near Aramingo Avenue. "There's a press conference scheduled for noon. I don't think they'll delay it. Apparently, someone tampered with the voting machines up in the 63rd District. People who thought they were voting for Katz were actually voting for different commissioners."
It's 11:50 a.m. at the Famous deli's annual election confab -- an overdose of media, politicians, operatives and corned beef. (Famous is owned by David Auspitz, father of CP's managing editor for A&E.) This is mostly a Democratic affair and they arrive in stages.
First in are State Sen. Vincent Fumo and his entourage, followed by Street and his people, and Gov. Ed Rendell appears last and seats himself at a prestigious table with such notables as Neil Oxman and Buzz Bissinger. Republicans rarely appear here, and if they do they get a small table, usually in the corner somewhere.
Melanie Hopkins arrives and takes a table with her daughter and grandchildren. Her fiance, Republican Councilman at-large Thacher Longstreth, died last April. There are five Republicans running for an at-large seat; one is Longstreth's. "No one can replace Thacher," says Hopkins, "and today is his birthday."
By the time midday rolls around, the police have fielded at least 35 calls for election-related complaints. Four years ago, there'd been just 19 calls to the DA's office, according to KYW 1060.
A white man handing out Katz pamphlets outside a polling place near Front and Gladstone in South Philly says a black man rode by on a 10-speed bike and smacked his arm with a two-by-four. As the man rode away around noon, he allegedly said, "It's all for Street." The victim -- a retired firefighter who apparently suffered a bruised arm -- was taken to St. Agnes Medical Center for treatment. Somewhere else in South Philly, a Republican committeeman shows off wounds to a Channel 6 camera. He says he was attacked and, with a bruised tailbone, is having trouble sitting down.
Henry Tiller leans against the cement wall that rings the Casa Enrico Fermi apartment complex at 1300 Lombard St. "I think the probe showed people just how low those people in Washington would go to get a vote," he says at lunchtime. "But two weeks ago, most people already knew how they were gonna vote. Nothing happened in the last two weeks that changed your mind. Maybe the young voters, those under 25, were affected, but not the seasoned voters. We're all too savvy for that. If anything, this brought Street's record into the open."
Katz has come to the Philadelphia Environmental Center near Pennypack Park with reporters in tow for a press conference. There, apparently, at least 18 people had tried earlier in the day to vote for Katz only to lend support to a commissioner instead. "Someone absolutely came out here and tampered with the machines," says Katz, just before 12:30 p.m. In the distance, a big white sign reading "Don't Let Republicans Hijack the Election" hangs on a utility pole. Inside, five senior citizens work the polls and register voters. "We got the wrong ballot," says Leah Eisenberg, judge of elections. "We made a call to get the right one. Eventually, two men showed up. They said they were here to fix the machine. One flipped a piece of ID, which I think said that he was a commissioner. It was hard to tell."
The two men took the old ballot out of the machine; then, they took a new one, folded the top over about an inch, and reinserted it, says poll watcher Brenda Smith. "I have no idea why they folded the ballot, but it's pretty obvious what happened here," Smith adds. "It was intentional. Two city employees coming out to fix the machine? They fixed it all right. This is affecting the Katz vote all over the city. Unfortunately, I didn't write the man's name down."
A Katz representative walks by and starts to collect a list of those who voted in error. "We just have to call them all back in, I guess," she says.
(This isn't the only place where there are already problems. In Mt. Airy, voters are turned away because election officials claim their information binders aren't ready yet. At a Center City poll, only one of the two machines is working, leaving Katz supporters to claim the city is moving too slowly to fix it because most locals support the challenger. And, Republican inspectors are apparently denied access to check broken voter machines in Roxborough's 29th Ward.)
At Broad and Lombard, a number of blacks wearing blue "Sam Katz for Mayor" T-shirts are handing out Katz campaign literature. Other blacks passing by taunt them, but they seemed unfazed. "Got a lot of rude people out here," says one Katz campaigner.
"Yeah," says another, sitting on a block of granite eating his lunch. "One guy asked me if I'd ever been to jail. He said, "Katz is gonna have a whole lot of you locked up. Why vote for him?' All I said back was, "Have a nice day.'" One goes on to explain that his regular gig is selling flowers and that a few weeks ago, Katz bought some before offering him a job.
"I'm the flower man and I'm a homeless person," he says. "The fact is that [Katz] is willing to help everybody and anybody. This is a lot easier than selling flowers."
Photo By Michael T. Regan
An urgent cell-phone call comes in to a reporter from a Katz insider just before 1 p.m. It's not just the Environmental Center. Five more divisions out of 25 in the 63rd Ward have had voting problems. "The 16th Division had a machine that didn't work. The 19th and 20th Divisions had the wrong list of voters and that delayed everything. The Fifth Division had to delay for three hours because of a mechanical problem. Then, in the 21st and 22nd, people were casting a vote for Katz that didn't count," he says. "This is the Northeast, where Katz has a strong constituency. But there are a lot of Democrat voters out here too. If the Street campaign was going to tamper with the vote, this would be the place to do it. I just hope they caught all of the problems in time."
Two black women wearing Katz T-shirts are flanking the doors of the Christian Street YMCA. It's 1:30 p.m., but both look weary. "Somebody just told me they were gonna kick our ass," says Rayneice Cottries. "Neither one of them is putting bread and butter on my table. This is work. I'm working. Don't come to me all nasty I understand they're Democrats. I'm a Democrat, too. It's pretty much because we're black and we're voting for the white man."
Hundreds of Katz supporters have assembled in front of the Bellevue. "Sam's gonna win, Sam's gonna win," is the droning chant. Brian Tierney, Katz's public relations point person who has offices on the 10th floor of the Bellevue, is chitchatting with pals in a women's clothing store in the lobby. He praises the "diverse group of volunteers who are full of optimism."
"We were underdogs. And the question was, "Could we pull it out?'" he says. "I'm feeling cautiously optimistic. But, my business is advertising; I don't do politics. All the polls [that have Street ahead] could be wrong."
Katz is on the radio, 1210 AM, at The Palm. Though he boasts of having a 7,700-person, 450-attorney army -- some high-placed Dems later point out that some of those lawyers drove in cars with license plates from the Attorney General's home state -- Katz remains worried about violence. He mentions that "an elite union leader was arrested for beating up a judge of elections." And from there, he says some of his opponent's supporters are cruising around the city in vans, stopping off at various polling places and voting.
Carl Singley, once a staunch Street ally who now co-chairs the Katz campaign, is seated in a booth nearby. "I've never seen such enthusiasm for a candidate as I've seen for Sam in the past day or two," he says. "Voters were galvanized -- both whites and African-American voters who support Sam. It's up to them to save the city. It's an important moment in history. The news is reporting that this is the most racialized election in the country. The world is watching. And how Philadelphia is perceived in the future is being determined today. But, Sam has demonstrated expertise in municipal finance and he's a conciliator. He brings people together -- no matter their race or ethnicity."
When asked why every black person in a Katz T-shirt working South Philly and Center City appears to have been paid, Singley bristles. "It's a nonissue," he says. "Both candidates have hundreds and hundreds of paid workers. I'm sure Street is paying some of his white supporters."
Nadine Jones-Bey and Wanda House are cheerfully distributing Katz literature at the Pilgrim's Rest Baptist Church at 54th and Market, a polling place in the heart of West Philly's African-American community. While both women say they've heard sporadic reports of intimidation and even violence, their day, which started at 6:30 a.m., has been completely trouble-free.
"Everyone has been cooperative and peaceful. Even the die-hard Street people have been polite," Jones-Bey says. So what made them decide to stump for Katz in enemy territory?
"I was a John Street fan," House says, "but now I'm undecided. I probably won't make a final decision until I'm in the booth."
"I have family and friends backing Katz," Jones-Bey chimes in, "and I like what he has to say."
Both say they'd like to make Street's party at the Wyndham, but with 11 children between them, they have to check on the condition of their babysitters before they can make that decision. Don't they mean check on the condition of the kids?
"No," House laughs, "I mean check on the condition of the babysitter."
Robert McCray stands at the entrance to the Shepard Recreation Center at 57th and Haverford passing out fliers and voting guides. What makes McCray stand out is he's the only guy around here wearing a David Hardy for Council at-Large T-shirt.
"If more blacks joined the Republican Party, maybe we could help change their policies," McCray reasons. "Right now, there's only a handful of black Republicans, but more numbers could force them to recognize us as a strategic voting group. What have the Democrats done for us lately?"
As he speaks, McCray tries to hand a flier to a woman who looks at the word "Republican" on the paper and recoils in horror, quickly handing it back to McCray and mumbling something as she makes a hasty retreat toward the door.
"This is America," McCray says to the back of the woman's head. "You have a right to vote for whoever you want. Even Republicans."
A campaign e-mail arrives from the Street camp at 3:34 p.m. The subject line reads, "Katz Campaign Ordered To Stop Minority Voter Intimidation Tactics." Attached are two emergency court orders. They name names (Jason Brehouse and Daryl Shelton) and make mention of people requesting voter-registration information from polling places.
The temperature has dropped at least 15 degrees and a light rain is falling by 5 p.m. The flashing lights of a police cruiser parked at the corner of 12th and Tasker illuminate the street. A young woman who has identified herself as a member of the Katz legal team appears distraught as she awaits representatives from the District Attorney's office. She's filing a complaint against Joe Modafferi, the judge of elections at 1600 S. 12th St. The woman insists that Modafferi has been injecting himself in the voting process, barring legitimate voters from the polling place and inappropriately influencing others.
"He's closed the doors and we can't see what's going on inside," she tells Detective Michele Kelly.
"That's not illegal," Kelly says.
"He won't produce a list of who's voted," she replies.
"He doesn't have to," Kelly tells her.
"He's been harassing voters," she insists.
"Are they here to make a complaint?" Kelly asks.
"They're on their way."
Modafferi, an election judge in this neighborhood for years, feels he's been singled out. "She thinks I was harassing people," he says. "I don't harass nobody. She's been harassing me since 9. Then, four Katz lawyers showed up -- like maniacs. I don't tell these people how to vote. But, this is Katz country. Over here, Katz is gonna win. So why they wanna do this? I know the rules; I know the law and I respect the law. Everybody's got the right to vote -- and I don't care who wins or loses."
Photo By Michael T. Regan
As 15-year-old Lindsey Backert stands outside the Local 30 polling place in the Lower Northeast, she puts on an oversize Sam Katz Mayor 2003 sweatshirt and hands out leaflets as voters walk into the building. "I've never really cared about elections before," she says. "But I'm paying attention now. I don't know what Street has done for this part of the city. A lot of my friends have seen Street on TV and they like what he has to say, but my family is worried about taxes and about other things. I'm a Republican and I plan to vote as soon as I can."
Around the same time, Democrats complain that "Korean translators" are going into the polling booths at Eighth and Chestnut with voters and that this is improper. A Republican committeeman at the polls says that the translator has the proper certificates to be a translator and that he is not going inside the polls, adding that the Democrats were overreacting.
Street arrives at the SEPTA Olney Terminal just before 5:30 p.m., positioning himself on the southeast corner of Broad and Olney. A festival-like atmosphere quickly evolves as people gather to take Polaroids with the mayor. They are pushed through an assembly line where they are embraced, then politely shoved off to the side. The whole process takes about three seconds.
Starstruck Keith Wallace, a student at George Washington Carver High School for Engineering and Science, makes two trips through the Polaroid line, reporting his photographic success with an "I got a picture with the mayor" cell-phone call to his mother. Within an hour, he'd be making his third trip.
About an hour and a half after the rally starts, supporters begin to sing Street-ified versions of classic doo-wop songs. "Don't Mess With Bill" becomes "Don't Mess with John." And apparently John Street is now "where all the hippies meet."
A black RV with a giant television screen soon parks across the street. The wagon blasts Street's hip-hop campaign song, "Street Life" by local group Dem Boyz, just before the rally reaches its orgiastic peak. It's pure sensory overload with group rally cries, bullhorn calls and one very oversize stereo system.
Inside South Philly's Tolentine Community Center polling station at 5:30 p.m., an elderly man and woman get into a shouting match about whom the man will vote for.
At the Seventh Ward polling place on Cambria, Democrat committeeman Israel Allaz says he doesn't allow any losers in his division. "That's why I'm voting for John Street," he says. "It's Democrats all the way. This is Angel Cruz's ward. It's John Street and Juan Ramos. You can go over to the other side with the losers, those Republicans, if you want to. But here, it's only winners."
"John Street's no good," says Susan Sanchez, a block captain. "This neighborhood is mostly Democrat but a lot of people are voting for Sam Katz. I don't like the way John Street treated that firefighter that got hepatitis. That was a disgrace the way he just stepped over her in the hallway of City Hall. This election is definitely racial. It shouldn't be that way, but it is."
Even though it is dusk, the large figure crossing Fourth Street is easily identifiable. It is Carlos Matos, the legendary Latino ward leader who is built like a bear. There is a hint of a smile on Matos' face, where there is usually a scowl.
"Turnout has been very good," says Matos of Fourth and York, a largely Latino North Philly neighborhood that does not vote in droves.
Just after six, more than 200 votes are tallied at the 19th Ward, Sixth Division polling place Matos is checking in on. Not huge by citywide standards, but a good deal more than in 1999.
"This is a big moment for the Latino community," says Matos. "John Street took a chance on a community that traditionally does not vote. He provided a lot of services here. This is a chance to show that this a community that can make a difference."
A group of white skateboarders stops by a Torresdale Avenue polling center, asking if they can have some of the Katz for Mayor signs at 6:30 p.m. They've decided to campaign until the end of the election.
"Katz wants to let skateboarders into Love Park," explains Justin Buster, 13.
He and four of his friends are wearing baggy jeans and oversize T-shirts. "Street wants to raise taxes," says George Birnie, 13. "Street had a chance to fix the city, but I don't think he did a good job. So, we should make a change."
As Birnie and Buster try to figure out how to attach the cardboard signs to their bodies -- masking tape? slide the metal bars into their shirts? -- a group of African-American kids across the street yell out, "Can we have signs too?"
They take Re-elect Street signs and parade in the street next to the skateboarders. "School is more important than skateboarding," says Ronald Jones, 11. "Sam Katz wants us to pay for school. We need education." Tim Logan, an 11-year-old who hobbled to the impromptu rally on crutches, disagrees. "You're going to have to pay for school anyway if you go to college," Logan says. "Personally, I don't like either of them."
A little girl with ponytails and a pink shirt runs into the street and shoves her Street sign up to the window of a car stopped at a light. "Just because you're white doesn't mean you can't vote for Street!" says Miesha Woodbridge, 9. "Vote for Street! Forget about those Katz signs. It's OK that Street is black. We need him!"
Renee Gillinger is a co-chair of Liberty City Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club. Her day is almost over, more than 11 hours since it began. "I've been up since 6," she says at Bump. "This is our staging area in the Gayborhood where all of our efforts are happening, we have the largest LGBT efforts in the whole state. We are supporting John Street, but not because we're Democrats. We don't have to support him, we could just do nothing like we did in 1999. But things are different now. John Street has come around with domestic partnership. And he has appointed women to high-level positions as well as lesbians, like Alba Martinez. The community is split though, 50-50 for Street and Katz."
Waiting for his wife in the lobby of the Pinn Memorial Baptist Church at 54th and Wynnfield at 7 p.m. is none other than clergyman and former Mayor W. Wilson Goode, whose defeat of Frank Rizzo became the stuff of legend. Looking a bit older and with a gray mustache, Goode still has a twinkle in his eye.
"Today's turnout is fantastic," Goode gushes. "A beautiful day for it, too. People are really coming out."
How does the turnout compare with Goode vs. Rizzo?
"I think it may be even better, but the polls are still open. We'll know better in an hour," he says with a wink.
Photo By Michael T. Regan
Talk is of turnout on the radio around 7:45 p.m. From the Republican standpoint, they think it's a good thing. "Make sure you bring me a cigar to the Warwick," conservative stalwart Brian Tierney says to a host on 1210 AM, predicting a victory.
At 7:57 p.m., police spokesperson Inspector William Colarulo tells a radio show that there have been about 100 calls to police for election-related incidents and concerns. (By 11:30 p.m., that number will rise to 171.)
By 8:45 p.m., the grand ballroom of the Wyndham Franklin Plaza Hotel is starting to fill up with poll workers, ward leaders and other cogs of the Democratic machine. (It is the Street campaign's third choice for a celebratory venue; his traditional first choice, the Warwick, was scooped up by Katz six months ago. His second choice, the DoubleTree, was scratched at the last minute after the campaign realized that it was not a union hotel.)
It does not take long for Street campaign officials, milling about the growing crowd, to declare unofficial victory.
"Street got 30 percent in the river wards," says spokesperson Dan Fee just after 9 p.m. "This race is over."
Twenty minutes later, preliminary returns broadcast by Fox/WHYY seem to back up Fee.
At 9:31, with 40 percent of the votes counted, the stations, doing a joint broadcast, report that Street has a commanding 60-to-39 margin. Five minutes later, Street supporters, mostly older black women, start the night's first line dance. A minute later, Fee says it's 60 to 39 with 42 percent of the votes counted.
"The Northeast reported first," Fee says in a pre-emptive strike on any argument that Katz's base had yet to report.
Any doubt about the outcome officially ends at 9:50, when mayoral wannabe Andrew Hohns pulls out his PalmPilot and shows off a message from Harry Cook, who is counting votes at Street's headquarters.
"It's over," Cook writes Hohns. "It's a landslide."
For the next hour and a half, the only speculation left in the room is when Katz will capitulate, as a mad crush builds in front of the stage.
Meanwhile, back at the Katz gig, the Warwick Hotel's ballroom dancefloor is crowded with Katz supporters. Around them, a long line snakes from the cash bar. Katz arrives as the television monitors in the hallway announce poll results so far: In most districts, it looks like Street is leading 60 percent to 40 percent. Chumley takes the stage. Speaking on behalf of Pride for Katz, Chumley stands beneath a red, white and blue balloon arc. It doesn't take much to rally the crowd.
"It's been a long, bitter fight," he screams. "We're all tired. The entire city is watching us now. Sam Katz all the way!"
At 10:10 p.m., ABC rules Street victorious. A half-hour later, the usual suspects -- Democratic leaders like Congressmen Chaka Fattah and Bob Brady, DA Lynne Abraham and City Controller Jonathan Saidel -- take the stage. A half-hour after that, a Street supporter grabs the mic and starts singing that "Don't Mess With John" song.
Dougherty, the electricians union honcho, is happy. Calling on his cell phone from the Wyndham, he says he doesn't chalk the victory up to the bug. No, he says, Street's message started to resonate even before the FBI arrived.
"John Street has always been known as a neighborhood guy," Dougherty says, lauding every union guy imaginable for not getting baited into any scrums. "The only negative in his last four years, minus some of the ongoing stuff, is that he followed Ed Rendell. Now, people have seen all the good he's done. They want to work alongside him to see some of these goals through to completion."
That's all well and good, but what about your future? Gonna run in '07?
"Listen, if you ever get an opportunity to be considered for something like that, you got to take a look at it," he says, before heading back into the building to hear Street's in-time-for-the-11-p.m.-news speech. "If that opportunity comes along, you have to consider it."
The theme from Rocky blares over the loudspeakers at the Wyndham. The room's side doors open and an overwhelmed Street emerges victorious along with his wife and the governor. Street rambles on for about 20 minutes, thanking the many people he owes, stopping at about 11:32 p.m., when someone watching television says Katz will soon concede.
The band at the Warwick is still playing disco, and a few dozen Katz supporters are sweating on the dancefloor. On the TV monitors, Street is still speaking, but the dancers don't seem to notice. In the background, light has just shone through the emergency exit door. Security guards usher Katz from behind a makeshift wall.
He paces as someone announces Street had swept the election by 17 percentage points. Katz waits behind the wall for another 18 minutes.
Finally, the band stops playing and people begin to cheer.
Tierney, on stage without a cigar, tries to quiet the crowd. "It's been an interesting year," he says. "For those of us who love this city so much, it didn't work out."
Tierney looks to his left, nods and announces Katz, who walks onto the stage looking worn. His wife and four children stand next to him, squinting in the bright lights of the television cameras.
"Thank you everyone," Katz says. "This is the only job I've ever wanted."
"I have congratulated John Street," Katz begins, but the crowd is hissing so loudly that he can't continue.
"Please," he starts.
"Unfortunately I was unable to reach him by phone " Katz says, as the crowd screams even louder.
Their "Sam! Sam! Sam!" chanting and clapping has made Katz step back from the podium and take a deep breath.
"Tomorrow is a time for healing," Katz says. "The point is, we have to find out a lot more about each other. This is a time when Philadelphia desperately needs to pull itself together. I've had 13 interesting years in business and politics. Of my campaigns for office, this has been the best one and probably the one I did the worst in."
A young woman shouts, "We love you Sam!" and the crowd begins to cheer again.
"I was supported by the people of Philadelphia, and the people of Philadelphia is what I will take away from this campaign," he continues. "We have a lot to look forward to, and if we stick together we'll get a lot done."
Katz turns to his family and hugs them for a while.
There's no talk of two-by-fours and broken machines.
Still smiling, he eventually leaves the stage.
After his speech, Street is hustled off his stage and out of the ballroom by several humongous bodyguards, none too happy about the swarming press.
A few minutes later, he re-emerges for a brief press conference. He tells reporters that he forgot to thank Latinos and could the media thank them for him. And, he says, among other things, that the overwhelming margin of victory -- which surprised even him -- is proof that this city is not as racially polarized as many think.
"I got more votes out of white wards and areas that traditionally you would not expect me to get votes out of," Street says. "This city is not as racially divided as some people have made out. I also believe that 30 days after this election, people will largely be over this election and we can continue to work for all the people of this city."