POSTED: 10:24 p.m. EST November 5, 2002
Now that Ed Rendell has been elected to the
job he first contemplated 20 years ago, Pennsylvania will get to
know a governor whose personal and political style is vastly
different from those who came before.
His rumpled, exuberant persona endeared him to Philadelphians
when he was their mayor from 1992 to 2000, and he used his
considerable charm and common touch to help persuade voters
throughout the state that a candidate from the City of Brotherly
Love could understand their needs and wants.
Now comes the hard part -- governing. Rendell, the first
Philadelphia candidate elected governor since 1914, will have to
summon all of that charisma to get his agenda through a Legislature
suspicious of the state's largest city and more accustomed to the
reserved, buttoned-down style of his predecessors.
"It will be a fascinating question over the next four years. It
will require a set of skills that he hasn't had to utilize," said
Buzz Bissinger, author of "A Prayer for the City," a
behind-the-scenes account of Rendell's first mayoral term.
Rendell, 58, who beat Republican Attorney General Mike Fisher,
found himself in nearly the same situation more than a decade ago.
Few people thought he could turn around Philadelphia, then a symbol
of the urban decay that had afflicted cities nationwide.
The city teetered on bankruptcy, jobs evaporated by the tens of
thousands, and residents fled to the suburbs in similar numbers.
The municipal government was widely seen as incompetent.
But in a whirlwind first term, Rendell slashed city spending,
turned over public jobs to private contractors and forced the
all-powerful municipal unions to accept a wage freeze -- a
concession that earned him their lasting enmity.
His efforts helped turn an inherited $250 million budget deficit
into a surplus, a remarkable financial recovery that led to
millions of dollars of Center City development, the 2000 Republican
National Convention and a new civic pride. With Rendell as
cheerleader-in-chief, Philadelphia was successfully promoted as a
He was a consummate schmoozer and master of the photo op,
scrubbing a City Hall bathroom on his hands and knees and opening a
municipal swimming pool by cannon-balling into it. He surrounded
himself with talented aides, delegating much of the day-to-day
management of the city to a hard-charging chief of staff named
Hailed as "America's mayor" by Vice President Al Gore, Rendell
won a second term in a landslide.
However, for all his successes, he couldn't solve many of the
systemic problems that still plague the city. The state government
took over the failing public school system last year; entire city
blocks are practically falling down; grinding poverty lingers.
Critics say he ignored outlying neighborhoods in favor of the
downtown area, a charge he vehemently denies.
And his volcanic temper and impulsiveness sometimes raised
eyebrows. In 1989, Rendell bet $20 that a fellow football fan
couldn't throw a snowball onto the field during an Eagles-Cowboys
game at Veterans Stadium. He lost the bet and the fan's snowball
hit a Cowboy in the back. In 1994, Rendell put a newspaper reporter
in a headlock when he objected to her questions.
After leaving office, Rendell served as chairman of the
Democratic National Committee, heading up the party's fund-raising
efforts during the 2000 presidential campaign. But he angered
Democrats when he called on Gore to concede after the Supreme Court
ruled in favor of Republican George W. Bush.
A New York City native, Rendell came to Philadelphia in the
early 1960s to attend the University of Pennsylvania. After
graduating from Villanova Law School in 1968, he joined the city
prosecutor's office and toppled an incumbent district attorney in
1978. Rendell served two terms.
His political career was almost ended when he ran two
consecutive losing campaigns in 1986 and 1987, first for governor
and then mayor. But his winning mayoral bid came four years later,
and the rest was history.
Rendell and his wife Marjorie O. Rendell, a federal
appeals-court judge, married in 1971 and have a son, Jesse, a
senior at the University of Pennsylvania. Rendell is a big sports
fan and has said he wants to resume his part-time job as a
post-game commentator for the Philadelphia Eagles on a local sports
Copyright 2002 by ThePittsburghChannel. All rights reserved. This material may not be
published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.