Pulse: Chatter: Politics: Bob’s Boom

Just months after it seemed that political reform would become one of the defining issues of the 2007 mayoral race, a strange thing happened: The Bob Brady for Mayor boomlet, pushed by ward leaders and State Senator Vince Fumo, took hold. Why would anybody get behind the ultimate machine-driven insider — Brady is a four-term congressman and longtime head of the city Democrats — at a time when pay-to-play scandals are the stuff of daily headlines? Isn’t this what the kids at Penn call a paradox?

Brady certainly has political skills. With a mix of street smarts and savvy, he has a history of getting people to do things they really don’t want to: He’s settled SEPTA strikes, and brokered detente between Fumo and John Street and Fumo and union leader John Dougherty. Last summer, while others paid lip service to the city’s murder problem, Brady brought together power types to start working on a solution. It was a group no other city leader could have convened, and Brady was able to get all those egos in one room because to one degree or another, they all owed him. (Also: He told many that if they didn’t show, he’d make sure the press knew it.)

But Brady also has liabilities. As Democratic Party boss, he’s spent a career doling out patronage jobs, and the obvious question is whether he would have the will to clean up city government. And yet, some see Brady’s backroom expertise as the ultimate asset. According to this Nixon-going-to-China logic, he may be the only candidate actually capable of changing the system. "He would have the clout to get things done," says Committee of Seventy CEO Zack Stalberg. "I think he would surprise us on reform and a whole lot of other things."