Politics seemed young and hip for a night when Sen. Barack Obama spoke at a fundraiser for Rep. Chaka Fattah at Lucky Strikes Lanes on Chestnut St. on Oct. 11.
The $100-per-person event was aimed at “urban young professionals.” A huge crowd turned out on the rainy Wednesday to hear Obama speak on behalf of his political ally and personal friend. Although the crowd drank from a cash bar and wasn’t permitted to bowl (presumably because the lanes were blocked off for a photo opportunity with the politicians), everyone was lively and in high spirits.
The night at Lucky Strikes was the second high-profile fundraiser for Fattah in less than a week. On Oct. 5, former Pres. Bill Clinton spoke on behalf of the Congressman at a $1000-per-person reception at the Union League.
Although both events were officially held in support of Fattah’s re-election for a seventh term in the House of Representatives, it is highly speculated that Fattah will soon announce his plans to run for mayor. At a separate panel discussion, Fattah himself strongly implied that he would officially declare his candidacy in November:
“I’m going to make an announcement on or before November 21. It’s my fiftieth birthday, it’s a time to reflect on what one might do in the second act of their life.”
Fattah’s reason for not declaring himself a candidate is most likely due to Philadelphia’s 2003 campaign finance law, which limits the amount of funds a candidate can raise, in an effort to prevent pay-to-play politics. Fattah has challenged the constitutionality of the law in a suit, saying that it preempts Pennsylvania state law. Because the limits on fundraising are still in effect, however, Fattah has never called himself a mayoral candidate, and therefore has legally raised donations that far exceed the amount allowed by the 2003 law. It is unclear whether the present law would allow him to transfer those funds to a mayoral campaign if it remains in effect.
At the fundraiser at Lucky Strikes, Fattah’s camp was hardly coy about his probable intentions to run. He was introduced by his daughter, Fran, as the “next mayor.”
Fattah then introduced Obama, making an implication himself—that Obama would be involved in a “larger race” one day, for the presidency.
As the junior U.S. Senator from Illinois, Obama is both one of the youngest and the only currently-serving African-American in Congress. Other Senators have urged Obama to consider running in the 2008 Presidential race, and he has recently received heavy media coverage as a unique potential candidate, appearing on Oprah and the cover of Timemagazine.
Despite some technological problems with the microphone, Obama’s charismatic speech held the rapt attention of the crowd.
He began by stating that he is “proud, happy, and glad” to support Fattah, “no matter what he decides to do.” He further alluded to Fattah’s plans to run for the mayoral seat by adding, “I don’t know what he’s going to do with all this money he’s raising…I don’t know what he’s going to do with the e-mail list he’s making…the thousands of volunteers…the infrastructure he’s building.”
Obama explained that as a civil rights attorney, law school professor, and family man active in his church, he had not originally wanted to run for office. He said that politics can be cynical and seem like a “dirty game.” However, he was inspired by Fattah, whose values motivated him and showed him that “you can translate them to politics.”
Obama then went on to explain some of those values that he and Fattah hold in common. He stated his beliefs that every child matters, every senior deserves support, and everyone should be able to go to college without going bankrupt. He also stated his support for single mothers and a health care system that would lower infant mortality rates.
His only reference to the war came in a hypothetical statement, in which he said that instead of spending a trillion dollars in Iraq, it should be spent taking care of domestic issues, such as urban renewal and programs to train ex-convicts.
Obama concluded by saying that every ethnic race matters, and that Fattah has the capacity to reach everyone. He said that Fattah would not focus on “what has been, or what is, but what could be” and that it is time to “reinvest for the next generation.”
The crowd warmly received Obama’s speech, with some members affirming his points aloud.
Fattah himself smiled and nodded emphatically while listening. In fact, he was in such agreement with all of Obama’s points that his response to the question, “What would you like to say to college voters?” was simply:
“Whatever Barrack said.”
You can contact Nicole Woods at firstname.lastname@example.org.