Ed Rendell: The Oral History

Looking back on the former mayor as his political career in Pennsylvania nears its end.

• Michael Barkann, host of Eagles pre-game and post-game shows on Comcast SportsNet, where Rendell is a weekly panelist: He’s supposed to be the Everyman, the Everyfan who truly loves the Eagles through thick and thin. And he is that guy. He goes to every game, whether it’s 20 below or 85 degrees. He sits outside. His seats are in the second level. What’s unbelievable to me is his ability to compartmentalize his life. I remember when Mayor Street was running for reelection. The Gov came in. He had been to the Eagles game. He did the show. I know how draining that is for me. I got home and I’m ready to go to bed, and I turn on the news and there he is, strategizing with John Street.   


After serving as chair of the Democratic National Committee, Rendell ran for governor in 2002, beating Bob Casey Jr. in the primary and Mike Fisher in the general election.

• Alan Kessler:
I think there’s ambition there — an ego. He became very friendly with Bill Clinton, friendly with Al Gore, and remember, he was called America’s Mayor. I think he realized, “I can move on to the next level. Why shouldn’t I be playing with these guys as governor rather than mayor?”

• Paul Levy:
The challenge from the time he became governor was that he had huge support here, where we had an affinity for his style, which is very urban. But he had a long learning curve. I remember when he first went to Harrisburg, someone said, “For the first time in his life, Ed has met real Republicans, not Philadelphia Republicans.”

• Dave Davies:
It was all different in Harrisburg, a much more partisan political atmosphere. When he went to Harrisburg and said, “Let’s bring it all together,” his Republican opponents saw this as a weakness. Plus, the state is much more conservative than the city. They like gun laws, low taxes and limited government. His agenda was much better off in urban Philadelphia.

• Neil Oxman:
The worst moment of the ’06 governor’s race with Lynn Swann [whom Rendell would beat easily] was when Ed released his medical records. His weight was 257 pounds. The only problem was, the Bucks County Courier Times transposed the numbers—they said he was 275 pounds. I had that headline up for a long time.

Tom McGrath Tom McGrath, Chief Content and Strategy Officer of MetroCorp tmcgrath@phillymag.com