The Wheel of Fortune

Letter From South Philadelphia

On the morning after Election Day, the front-page headline of the Philadelphia Daily News said it all, not just about the events of the day, but about the possible future of Philadelphia:

Goode Squeaks In
Rizzo Won't Quit

Incumbent Mayor W. Wilson Goode won, by unofficial count, by about 14,000 votes (2 percent of the total) in a bitterly divided city. There was a palpable belief among many of the 318,500 people who voted for Rizzo that fraud may have accounted for many more than 14,000 votes. Two days after the election, a radio talkshow host was promising to check whether the owner of a residential property—even an abandoned one—may give permission to anyone to use his property as a voting address. And on election night Rizzo himself made a vague reference to reports of voters arriving at polls on buses.

These kinds of reports are nothing new in Philadelphia, where dead people have been known to vote in large numbers and even be elected to office. But whether or not Rizzo keeps his promise to finally retire from the scene, the resentment over Goode's victory—justified or not—may remain for a long time to come.

On the Wednesday before Election Day, Kate and I decided to take the night off at the Pen & Pencil Club, the oldest journalists' drinking club in the Republic. Chartered...

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