Ed Rendell Addresses Rumors He’s Running: Only If Things Got Really, Abysmally Bad

Who would he call if he woke up and found himself mayor? Paul Levy.

Just how desperate is Philadelphia?

Come 2015, the answer to that question might determine whether or not Ed Rendell seeks a third term as mayor.

In recent days, Rendell has downplayed his interest in returning to City Hall. He did so again in a brief phone interview this morning, telling me: “It’s not something that anybody should be thinking about.”

But Rendell does seem to be giving the idea some real thought.

“I think the city has got challenges. But it’s not Detroit and the only thing that would compel me to even think about coming back is if the city slid down into a horrible abyss and I think it needed an all-out rescue plan,” he said. “I don’t think we’re there yet. I’m in no way, shape or form needed.”

Allan Domb (among others) would beg to differ. The Center City real estate agent has been at the forefront of a Draft Ed movement, telling the Inquirer “if Ed Rendell is mayor, the spirit of Philadelphia will change overnight, investment from the business community will skyrocket immediately.”

This somewhat desperate-seeming nostalgia for Ed is being driven by deep dissatisfaction in some circles with the existing field of mayoral candidates, which Rendell is clearly aware of.

“People say there’s nobody good out there,” Rendell said, carefully refraining from commenting on the field himself. “But you can’t just judge the field by the people who want the job or have announced their intentions. You can go out and make a candidate. It wouldn’t be the first time that happened in politics”

“I’d be happy to help in that endeavor,” Rendell said. He even offered up a name. The business community, he suggests, could “talk to an Alba Martinez.”

Rendell’s point seems to be that the business community–and really anyone who is unhappy with the existing field of candidates–should not be counting on him to step in and solve their problems.

But that could be difficult unless Rendell squashes the rumors once and for all. The Draft Ed movement does not look to be losing any steam. Indeed, it has now moved on to assembling a fictional staff for his fictional third term. One oft-heard suggestion: Center City District Executive Director Paul Levy, in the role formerly played by Rendell’s erstwhile chief of staff David L. Cohen.

Rendell, though, seems to prefer Levy in a more purely operational role. “I think Paul would be an excellent managing director,” Rendell said. “If I woke up tomorrow and found myself mayor, Paul Levy would be one of the first people I’d call, no doubt about that.”

But Levy, who has run the Center City District for 23 years, may be hard to pry loose. “I consider this the best, most gratifying job I have held in my life and have no intention of leaving the Center City District,” he said in an email. “I look forward to continuing to work at the CCD and to cooperate fully with whomever is the next mayor of Philadelphia.”