An enthusiastic crowd and a small group of anti-death penalty activists greeted Ed Rendell, the Pennsylvania Democratic candidate for governor, at a rally on campus on Wednesday.
Although Rendell arrived over an hour late, the crowd was kept happy with the free soda and pizza that was given out by Rendell campaign workers.
Once he arrived, Rendell, the former two-term mayor of Philadelphia, spoke for about 20 minutes as he laid out his vision of unity for Pennsylvania.
“The most important thing is to unite the state,” Rendell said, “We are one state and we can deal with our problems successfully only if we work together.”
“In 1992, we were a divided city,” he said, “but we were able to bring the city together and straighten things out.”
Rendell said that his opponents have been trying to divide the state by sending out letters to Catholic voters that he said highlight his support of gay rights and women’s right to choose.
“I happen to believe that gay and lesbian people have the right to be treated like the ordinary decent citizens that they are,” Rendell said, “[and] I happen to believe that a woman has the right to choose.”
But not everyone agrees with Rendell on the abortion issue.
Before Rendell arrived, International Business major Joe Christian held a one-man protest on the steps leading to the third floor of the Student Center.
“[Abortion] is why I’m here,” Christian said, pointing to one of the cards he was attempting to hand out which portrayed an aborted fetus.
“[Rendell] promotes abortion… he’s supported it his whole career and Planned Parenthood supports him. [Students] are having a celebration with pizza, when behind the scenes, Rendell supports abortion.”
However, Christian was asked to leave by Dean of Students James Fitzsimmons before Rendell arrived.
“We will always provide space for students with a cause or message,” Fitzsimmons said.
“On the street, a student can hand out anything they want – but in the building we have procedures,” he said, alluding to section seven of the “Regulations for Fundraising/Solicitation” in the Organizational Resource Manual, which states “Solicitation in The Student Center is prohibited unless a table is reserved.”
Fitzsimmons added that “Any student or organization that wants to request space can do so.”
But most of the people who showed up for the rally were there to support Rendell, including members of the International Union of Painters and Allied Traders.
“Ed Rendell is the candidate that supports good wages and good jobs. When he was mayor, that’s when the building boom took place – which meant more jobs for our members,” said Joe Barrett, Business Representative for District Council 21 of the IUPAT.
“A lot of politicians claim that they have created jobs, but these jobs pay minimum wage. Ed Rendell created [construction] jobs that pay a living wage.”
Rendell did touch on these issues when he talked about bringing business and development to the state, with the goal of retaining Pennsylvania college graduates and other citizens, who have been leaving the state for regions with better opportunities.
“Young people leave [Pennsylvania] because when they graduate, they can’t find career paths,” Rendell said.
Rendell also said that many Pennsylvanians were fearful that a governor from Philadlephia would favor the city over the rest of the state.
“I say two things to [these people],” he said, “I say: ‘Do you think your region is getting it’s fair share of state funds?’ and I will get a resounding ‘No!’ everywhere in the state, I say…that there has not been a Philadelphia governor since 1914 and that if there region is not getting its fair share, it has not been Philadelphia governors who have been giving you the short end of the stick.”
Rendell closed by saying that although he has a double-digit lead over his opponent, Republican candidate Mike Fisher, that everyone still needs to come out and vote on Election Day.
“It worries me that people won’t come out,” Rendell said, “and I need your help to ensure that I win.”
Jeremy Smith and Brian White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org