Milton Street: “I’m Running, I’m Running!”

The Independent kicks off his, um, Democratic campaign for mayor.

Photo Credit: Holly Otterbein

Photo Credit: Holly Otterbein

By Milton Street’s standards, it was a pretty boring affair.

Street, the city’s favorite gonzo candidate, kicked off his campaign for mayor Thursday in a perfectly normal-looking church in North Philadelphia. There was no singing. No coffin as a prop. No funeral parlor.

Perhaps Street was too busy with more serious matters to orchestrate one of the kooky publicity stunts he’s known for. The first words out of his lips were about the news the Inquirer recently broke about his campaign: Street has been registered as an Independent since 2012, according to city records, though he is running as a Democrat in the May 19th primary election. That’s, um, a big no-no. If a candidate or a voter files a legal challenge, they’ll almost certainly succeed in kicking him off the ballot.

“I’m running, I’m running!” he declared defiantly at the front of the New Jerusalem Baptist Church. “I don’t see that keeping me from being on the ballot.”

Street, an ex-convict and former state legislator, acknowledged that he had signed up as an Independent in 2012. But he said he switched his party registration back to Democratic in early 2013, and had voted in two primary elections since then.

“You can’t vote in the Democratic primaries and then all of a sudden you can’t run in a Democratic primary,” he said.

Street declined to discuss how he would defend himself in a theoretical legal battle, however. He said he would address that at a press conference Tuesday, the deadline for candidates to file ballot challenges.

This odd development could have a serious effect on the mayor’s race: It would likely benefit state Sen. Anthony Williams if Street gets chucked from the ballot. Philadelphians tend to vote along racial lines, and both Williams and Street are African-American.

Though the kickoff was relatively staid, there were still, to be sure, some quotable moments. (We’re talking about Street after all.) Some were serious, some not so much.

Street said violence is the “cornerstone and foundation” of his campaign.

Under Mayor Michael Nutter, the city’s annual homicide count has fallen to its lowest point since 1967. Still, Street said, that wasn’t close to good enough.

“What do you mean it’s trending downward?” he asked. “It’s got to stop. These lives have value.”

It’s a message that would undoubtedly resonate in many neighborhoods. Last year, 248 people were killed in Philadelphia.

Street also chided City Council for failing to hold a hearing on Nutter’s proposed sale of Philadelphia Gas Works for nearly $2 billion. Street said that move will make it more difficult to convince GOP state lawmakers to send extra money to the cash-poor Philadelphia School District.

“The tentacles of that decision penetrate deeply into the fibers of our community,” he said.

Since he served as both a Democrat and Republican in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, Street said he would be well-positioned to lobby state lawmakers as mayor.

“I know the mindset up there. There are four mindsets,” he said. “There’s the mind that’s closed and never open. That’s the mind of the bigot. There’s the mind that’s open and never closes. Those legislators are defined by indecision. There’s the mind that’s open on the bright side and closed on the dark side. That’s your optimist. And the mind that’s closed on the bright side and open on the dark side. That’s your pessimist.

“If you don’t understand that when you go to Harrisburg,” he said, “this is the problem.”

At the end of the event, Citified asked Street: If he gets booted from the primary ballot, would he run for mayor as an Independent in the general election? That would further increase the likelihood that the city will, for once, have an intriguing mayor’s race this fall. A Street run in November could also hurt Williams if he emerges as the Democratic nominee and former mayoral candidate Sam Katz jumps into the race as an Independent.

“It’s always a possibility,” said Street.