Is Sam Katz Running for Mayor Again?

Stepping down as PICA chair could signal that his boyhood dream of running the city is still alive.

Photo | HughE Dillon

Photo | HughE Dillon

Former Republican mayoral candidate Sam Katz loves to tell the story about when a reporter asked him if the rumors are true that he still wants to be mayor. Katz’s response: “I’ve wanted to be mayor since I was a seven years old.”

Today’s announcement that Katz is resigning as chair of the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Board (PICA) is being read by some as the first sign that he may be considering another run in 2015.

If he did run, would he run as a Republican? I seriously doubt it. The Republican registration in Philadelphia is now below 12 percent, and the Philadelphia GOP is fighting within its own ranks. The Republican brand is damaged, and the Democratic machine and the unions still have control of the city.

It is doubtful, however, that Katz would run in a crowded Democratic field. But what about a run as an Independent candidate? That seems possible.

Katz came closer to winning the mayor’s race than any Republican candidate in more than 50 years. One of the reasons most often given for his narrow defeats is that he didn’t successfully distance himself from the damaged national Republican party headed at the time by George W. Bush. This was especially true in Katz’s second run when Mayor John Street’s re-election campaign was able to spin an FBI corruption investigation into a Bush administration witch-hunt.

Katz has been hurting ever since the close losses in 1999 and 2003. It took an enormous toll on him. I saw Katz in a Wawa after he lost in 2003 and he looked emotionally and physically spent. It took a toll on his family, too, and he told me way back then that he was done, that if he couldn’t win those races, no Republican could.

But what about an Independent?

A lot would still have to happen. For one, the Democrats would have to nominate someone Katz sees as vulnerable.

Regardless of who it is (unless, of course, it’s this guy), Katz would enter the race with the most recognizable name and an impressive resume that now includes PICA and his wonderful documentaries, Philadelphia: The Great Experiment, about the proud history of the city.

And Katz would have a chance to make history with an Independent run. That just may be too much for someone who has been dreaming of being mayor of Philadelphia since he was 7 to resist.

Follow @LarryMendte on Twitter.