Rendell, Edward Gene

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RENDELL, EDWARD GENE (1944– ), U.S. Democratic politician. Born in New York City and educated at the University of Pennsylvania (B.A. 1965) and Villanova University Law School (J.D. 1968), Rendell was an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia from 1968 to 1977. After entering electoral politics, he was district attorney, 1978–85 (elected 1977 and 1981; he was the youngest da in the city's history when he took office); ran unsuccessfully for governor of Pennsylvania, 1986; ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Philadelphia, 1987; was mayor, 1992–99 (elected 1991 and 1995); chairman of the Democratic National Committee, 1999–2000; and governor of Pennsylvania (elected 2002). Rendell was briefly in private law practice, 1987–91 and 2000–02. He also lectured on government and politics at the University of Pennsylvania.

Ed Rendell, a Clintonian Democrat, "stocky, balding, gravel-voiced, yet still oddly charismatic," as one journalist has put it, is known as a blunt, outspoken politician with a big personality, an effective campaigner and fundraiser. He was regarded as a law-and-order district attorney. When he became mayor of Philadelphia during a national economic recession, the city was deep in debt, and Rendell managed to balance the city's budget by imposing spending cuts, eliminating jobs, conducting competitive bidding for municipal contracts, privatizing some services, and forcing favorable wage settlements on municipal unions, establishing a national reputation as an effective manager. Legally barred from running for a third term, he was chosen to lead the Democratic National Committee during the 2000 election, but his tenure as chairman alienated him from some in the Gore presidential campaign, who felt that his public statements were frequently "off-message." Elected governor of Pennsylvania on the strength of his performance as mayor, Rendell has managed to get some parts of his legislative program enacted, but in general has had less success than he had in Philadelphia, since the state legislature is controlled by very conservative Republicans. As a Democrat able to win in a large, electorally important state, Rendell has been mentioned as a potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2008.

[Drew Silver (2nd ed.)]