With polls showing crime as the top concern of Philadelphia voters, candidates in this spring’s Democratic mayoral primary have similar sets of policy prescriptions couched in sharply contrasting language, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. For former City Councilman Michael Nutter, the dominant theme is anger over the city’s 406 homicides last year. For State Rep. Dwight Evans, the dominant themes are personnel and leadership. He wants to woo former Police Commissioner John Timoney back from Miami. For U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, the dominant theme is help for the poor. “It is not illegal guns, it is the absence of opportunity which is at the heart of” Philadelphia’s crime problems, Fattah said.
Where Nutter regularly excoriates Mayor John Street over rising crime, Fattah avoids criticism of city leaders, noting that many cities struggle with crime. Pollster Ronald Lester said Fattah’s tone was more likely to resonate. “It’s the long-term approach that’s likely to be received by African American voters,” Lester said. “A let’s-just-lock-’em-up approach is not going to be well received.” Nutter said his language and his proposal captured the feelings of people who actually live in the highest-crime areas, which are predominantly black. “If you live in a hot spot and you’re ducking bullets every day,” Nutter said, “you’re thinking, ‘What is anyone doing?’ ” Political strategist Neil Oxman, who is not now working for any candidate, said he thought Fattah’s rhetoric identified the congressman with the status quo. “People are really angry right now,” Oxman said. “This could be the Achilles’ heel of the Fattah campaign.”