John Featherman knows a little something about long odds. Injured in a horseback-riding accident at age 7, he was told that he'd never breathe on his own again.
Featherman, who's overcome numerous related physical challenges, is a 46-year-old Center City real estate agent who has made several unsuccessful runs for political offices.
Now, he's embarking on what most political observers consider a quixotic bid to unseat incumbent Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.
And he's far from the only Jewish candidate running for office in Philadelphia in a year that's brought out dozens of contenders and may see a historic overhaul in the membership of City Council.
In the mayoral race, a Republican hasn't been elected to the job in decades. Nutter's last Republican opponent, Al Taubenberger, got less than 20 percent of the vote.
Before he campaigns in a general election, Featherman must first get by Karen Brown, a former Democrat who recently switched parties, and is now backed by the city's Republican committee.
"I fought incredible odds before; I have won before," Featherman said, adding that his campaign is about lowering the city's tax burden and improving its business climate.
Lacking the emergence of a big-name challenger to Nutter — unless you count Milton Street, brother of former Mayor John Street, who is facing the mayor in a primary — one might have expected a lackluster spring campaign season here.
But there are literally dozens of candidates seeking a total of 17 spots on City Council — 10 district seats and seven at-large ones. With some veteran lawmakers stepping aside, including Council President Anna Verna, some of the vacant seats appear wide open.
The campaign comes at a pivotal time, according to the political watchdog group, the Committee of 70, since decisions made by the council will play an enormous role in shaping how the city ultimately recovers from the recession and whether it thrives in years to come.
Jews to the Rescue?
Several contenders are hoping to become the first Jewish member to serve on the council since longtime lawmaker David Cohen died in 2005.
The Exponent previously reported on the bids of Sherrie Cohen, David Cohen's daughter, and Jeff Hornstein (www.jewishexponent.com/article/ 22901/).
Other Jewish hopefuls include Republican Malcolm Lazin, who last sought public office in 1977, when Ed Rendell beat him in a race for district attorney.
The 67-year-old gay-rights advocate — who took part in a 2006 gay and lesbian mission to Israel sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia — is one of five at-large candidates endorsed by the GOP. Though due to the arcane rules governing city elections, Republicans typically win only two at-large seats.
Lazin said he decided to run because he was concerned with the "looming disaster" regarding the city's finances.
Republican Ivan Cohen,who could not be reached for comment, is one of seven candidates running in the open second district seat, which includes parts of Center City, and South and West Philadelphia.
Democrat Howard Treatman — the immediate past president of Germantown Jewish Centre who owns a real estate firm — is one of eight candidates seeking the open spot representing the eighth district, which covers Germantown, Chestnut Hill and Mount Airy.
Treatman said his campaign is about job creation and community development.