When Philadelphia hosts the Democratic National Convention at the end of the month, they should recall a local legend, and shudder.
For years the streets of Philadelphia, “the city of brotherly love”, were full of anything but love as crime soared and frustrations mounted. Enter, stage right, Police Commissioner-cum-Mayor Frank Rizzo, whose years as a beat cop prepared him to lead a tough city at a tough time. His message: “you and your family will be safe again.”
Rizzo made good on that promise, but did so by running roughshod over the normal rules of engagement and communication in a then racially-divided city. In the process, his willingness to talk openly, boldly, and brashly was criticized by the press and excoriated by political opponents.
Judging by the polls, Frank Rizzo was always in trouble, always behind, and yet, on election day, he won.
His long-time campaign manager, Marty Weinberg, called it the “hidden vote”, that 10 to 15 percent of the electorate who would never openly admit they’d vote for Rizzo, but always did.
I call it “The Rizzo Factor,” and it’s not without precedent.
Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, a national African-American icon, was ahead in every poll for governor of California in 1982, but lost to George Deukmejian, an upstart conservative GOPer with a strong jobs message.