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.   

HARRISBURG

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.

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  • colleen

    Having read your story on the Governor, it reminded me of his 1977 DA run. In 1977 I was an 18 year old cashier at the A & P on Roosevelt Boulevard. One afternoon the candidate and his campaign manager came in the store. They were to attend a fundraiser at The Shack Restaurant next door. The campaign manager asked, “What aisle is the Scotch-tape?” I told him the aisle, only for him to reaapear at my register and ask, “What aisle are toilet brushes?” At this point, realizing it was Mr. Rendell, I asked why they needed Scotch-tape and toilet brushes. The campaign manager informed me they were trying to get the fuzzies off of Mr. Rendell’s suit. Classic. Only in Philly. I’m sure the Governor is dressing better nowadays. C. C. Young

  • colleen

    Having read your story on the Governor, it reminded me of his 1977 DA run. In 1977 I was an 18 year old cashier at the A & P on Roosevelt Boulevard. One afternoon the candidate and his campaign manager came in the store. They were to attend a fundraiser at The Shack Restaurant next door. The campaign manager asked, “What aisle is the Scotch-tape?” I told him the aisle, only for him to reaapear at my register and ask, “What aisle are toilet brushes?” At this point, realizing it was Mr. Rendell, I asked why they needed Scotch-tape and toilet brushes. The campaign manager informed me they were trying to get the fuzzies off of Mr. Rendell’s suit. Classic. Only in Philly. I’m sure the Governor is dressing better nowadays. C. C. Young

  • Mark

    Like Rendell, I am a native New Yorker and I know his mindset regarding Philly and Pennsylvania for that matter.When he went to Penn and saw Philly he couldn’t believe the corrupt bunch of rubes who run the place. Knowing his BS wouldn’t fly in savvy NY, he proceeded to grease his sleazy political career to the point where he was dubbed “Americas mayor” Please! I saw this character close up and he may be a god here but the guys a total fraud.

  • Eric

    Mr. Rendell eliminated the motorcycle helmet law when he began his career as Governor. On his way out he vetoed both the “residential sprinkler bill” AND the “cancer presumption” bill. This man has no soul…