Ed Rendell: The Oral History

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

• Neil Oxman:
From ’87 to ’91 was the greatest maturing I saw him do. He went around and studied other cities.

• Alan Kessler:
We’re at this dinner at the Union League in 1991, where Ed announced he’s running for mayor a second time. I remember people leaving that dinner saying, “Tell me I’m not going to be asked to write another check.” But the amazing thing is, nobody said they wouldn’t do it. And we had a poll that showed in the current field of candidates, Ed would win. The Inquirer and Daily News started referring to him as a front runner, and if you get called a front runner enough, you become the front runner. And he won the primary.

• Frank Rizzo Jr.
has been a City Councilman since 1995. His father was set to oppose Rendell in the 1991 general election: My father was the one who gave him the name “Fast Eddie.” “Keep your eye on him,” he’d say. He liked Ed Rendell, but he was gonna kick his butt. That was gonna be the election of elections, that one. My father was going to be very rough on him. My father obviously had a lot of knowledge about Ed Rendell, but I don’t honestly know what it was.

• Neil Oxman: We were never worried about Rizzo. We had done a poll that showed Ed up by 35 points. And he was up in the African-American community 92 to 8.

• Frank Rizzo Jr.: When my father died [in July 1991], Ed knew he’d be the next mayor. I think he had a sigh of relief that he was not going to get personally embarrassed by my father.

• Sam Katz: Ed really cleaned [replacement Republican candidate] Joe Egan’s clock; it was probably the widest margin in mayoral history. And that gave him the mandate to do the difficult things that it took to get the city off the banana peel.


• Dave Davies
, covered Rendell for the Daily News: He had a unique circumstance when he took office in 1992. There was a widely acknowledged financial crisis that dominated everything else. And there was a consensus that a unity of purpose and desperate action were needed.
• Alan Kessler:
One of the first acts he did when he was sworn in was scrub the bathrooms at City Hall. You know, you turn on your television set and there he is, on his hands and knees.

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