Could Ed Rendell Endorse Long-Shot Candidate Doug Oliver for Mayor?

The former guv says Oliver is "energetic," "refreshing" and has "a great smile."

Photo Credit: X

Ed Rendell and Doug Oliver | Photo Credit: Left, Right, Mitchell Leff.

[Curious about Doug Oliver? Register to attend one of Philly mag’s forthcoming Q&As with the mayoral candidates at this link. On Monday, Feb. 23, Citified’s Holly Otterbein interviews Oliver. The event is at VentureF0rth, and it’s free and open to the public.]

The prospect of Ed Rendell endorsing Doug Oliver for mayor is insane. Oliver has almost no money, nearly no name recognition and absolutely no experience in elected office. It would never happen, right?

Actually, maybe it’s not as crazy as it sounds.

Rendell, the former mayor of Philadelphia and governor of Pennsylvania, told Citified, “Doug is obviously a young, energetic, refreshing candidate. He comes in with no prior alliances and, in that sense, no baggage. He’s free to do what he believes in. I think he’s very attractive — obviously a long-shot — but very attractive.”

In fact, Rendell used a whole host of positive adjectives to describe Oliver, a former senior vice president at Philadelphia Gas Works: “enthusiastic,” “charming,” “passionate,” “engaging.” Plus: “He’s got a great smile.”

Contrast that with the comments Rendell has made about the other mayoral candidates. He called former District Attorney Lynne Abraham “very stubborn.” He described City Councilman Jim Kenney as “the flavor of the week.” He says he’s worried about state Sen. Anthony Williams‘ support of vouchers: “I think the way they’re structured would destroy public education once and for all.” And former city solicitor Nelson Diaz? “I like Nelson a lot, but … I don’t know what his views are.”

Rendell says he has advised Oliver to take a page from his playbook as an underdog candidate for District Attorney in the 1970s, and introduce himself to voters on subway stops and outside grocery stores. Oliver says he’s done just that. Oliver also says Rendell frequently swings by his campaign headquarters, located around the corner from Rendell’s office in the Bellevue, to offer advice.

Rendell is planning to decide sometime around early April whether to endorse a mayoral candidate. There’s a chance he might not support anyone. But if he does, he says, he’ll hold fundraisers for the lucky person as well as donate to them himself.

For Oliver to get his support, Rendell says he’d first have to solidify his mayoral platform. “He has to develop his position on issues. Youthful enthusiasm and energy only takes you so far.” He also says Oliver would have to drum up more enthusiasm for his campaign on his own.

In the meantime, Rendell says he might host a meet-and-greet for potential donors to get to know Oliver, like he did for former mayoral candidate Ken Trujillo before he dropped out of the race.

The fact that Rendell is even considering endorsing Oliver speaks to how truly unusual this race is, and how underwhelmed many of the city’s power players still are with the mayoral field.

“If [Oliver] does well in the forums, if he’s willing to do the work … he could catch on,” Rendell says.