Most political endorsements, to repeat John Nance Garner’s infamous quote about the vice presidency, are “not worth a bucket of warm piss.”
Ed Rendell’s is different. He surprised everyone Tuesday with his endorsement of Carlos Vega for district attorney.
Why is it different? The majority of Philadelphia, friend and foe alike, agree he was the most successful mayor in our lifetime. He then went on to become a successful two-term Democratic governor. That was something no Philadelphian had done in our lifetime. (Democratic Gov. Milton Shapp lived in the suburbs.)
What that means is that Rendell is liked and respected, and it further means he has thrown his political capital against the progressive candidate, Larry Krasner.
That itself doesn’t surprise me a lot, because Rendell was successful as a traditional liberal Democrat, not a lefty looney. He could not have been elected governor if the conservative parts of the state did not see in him someone who was pro business, just socially liberal enough, without being batshit.
That’s one of the reasons the national Democratic Party elected him chair — because he could talk to everyone, including Republicans.
That he did endorse was a surprise, because when I wrote a bio of Vega in December, I asked the three living former D.A.’s to evaluate him.
Ron Castille and Lynne Abraham obliged me, Rendell never responded to me, which, frankly, hurt my feelings. After all, he had hired Vega to be an assistant district attorney.
I’ve had a good relationship with Rendell over the years — not a close one, but friendly, and I endorsed him anytime he ran for anything. I learned Tuesday from Chris Brennan that Rendell also had been ducking the political reporter for the Morning Yawn. (That’s a term I was banned from using once the Inquirer swallowed up the Daily News, my longtime home.)
Like I said earlier, most endorsements don’t mean much, including mine.
But it troubled me a bit that Rendell had turned into a wuss, a term he got in trouble for using against the NFL which cancelled an Eagles game due to a projected snowstorm. He later doubled down and authored a book titled, “A Nation of Wusses.”
Well, I reasoned, he’s an elder statesman now, maybe he figures he shouldn’t go around picking fights, especially with the ascendant wing of the Democratic Party, the progressives.
I was wrong. Fast Eddie had calibrated at what moment his endorsement would have the greatest impact.
At a news conference at his Center City office, Rendell said he was reluctant to criticize any of his successors, but noted when violence was soaring, “You must as a city do something about it. If you don’t act, it will destroy the city.” He believes Vega will do something about it.
Tuesday’s election is expected to be low turnout. Off-year elections usually are.
In a Tuesday story in the Inquirer, reporters Sean Collins Walsh and Anna Corso reported that this is the first time local progressives will have to defend their ground — and Krasner’s record.
In Thursday’s Philadelphia Weekly, I write that this race is of interest to progressives nationally — as Krasner was the first D.A. to be funded by billionaire George Soros.
I expect a tight race, and in a tight race, Rendell’s blessing could bring victory.