Democratic mayoral nominee Michael Nutter easily defeated Republican Al Taubenberger yesterday, ending a quirky contest with two opponents who rarely disagreed and an outcome that was never in doubt.
With just over half of the vote counted, Nutter was outdistancing Taubenberger by a 4-1 ratio.

Despite a number of competitive judicial and city council races, voter turnout appeared light as morning rain and the widespread expectation that Nutter would win handily led many to stay away from the polls.

Indeed, for many observers, the question of the night was whether any records would be broken for largest margin of victory or lowest voter turnout.

Both candidates began their final day on the campaign trail at 7 a.m., with Taubenberger, 53, shaking hands at an intersection in the city's Northeast section and Nutter casting his ballot at his Wynnefield polling place, accompanied by his wife Lisa and their telegenic daughter Olivia.

"We have to lower crime in this city, we have to educate our children, create jobs and restore integrity to government. Those have been my themes from the start of this campaign and they're going to continue to be through the course of this day," Nutter told reporters at his polling place. "And, should I be successful, for my time in office."

Taubenberger cast his ballot around 10 a.m., accompanied by his 18-year old daughter Sarah who was voting in her first election.

"I ran an upbeat campaign, and I look forward to the conclusion, and I'm in this to win it," Taubenberger said.

The two candidates spent the rest of the day zipping to destinations all over town, shaking hands on street corners and transit stops, rallying Election Day workers and stopping by traditional Election Day haunts such as the Famous 4th Street Deli (well, Taubenberger was there).

Nutter planned to watch election returns and party with his supporters at the Warwick Hotel in Center City, while Taubenberger hunkered in at the Knowlton Mansion in the northeast. The mansion doubled as a polling location today, so the GOP party had to wait until 8 p.m. to even begin.

There were few reports of problems at the polls.

"It's been a pretty mellow day. There were a few late openings, a couple machines down, all of it fairly routine," said Christopher Sheridan, director of voting rights for the election watchdog group Committee of 70.

Sheridan said the committee's volunteers had observed low turnout at multiple polling places, and he predicted that just 20 to 25 percent of all registered voters would cast ballots. That would be a record low for a mayoral election.

At the First United Methodist Church of Germantown in the 59th ward, Judge of Election Edgar Johnson also reported lackluster turnout.

"We generally have people waiting on the steps at 7 a.m. No one was on the steps today. It's going to be a very small turnout. Everyone is walking around saying, 'Nutter has it, why bother?'" Johnson said.

"Everyone assumes he's going to win and that's not a good thing."

In north Philadelphia, at the AME Union Church at 16th and Jefferson streets, Democratic committeewoman Helen cheeks said she had been frustrated by the lack of campaign materials she could provide voters in the day's leading up to the election.

"I hate ringing a doorbell with nothing to offer," said Cheeks, a committee woman for 55 years.

She speculated that the low turnout was partly due to the expected Nutter victory.

"I guess they figured they voted for him in the primary," she said.

Turnout was strong in Chinatown, however, as supporters of Republican City Council candidate David Oh made sure people voted.

"Right now it's a surge," said Oh-backer Ken Wong, 51.

Still, turnout was generally thin, much to the dismay of Democratic committee person Neshamah Eshamah Dillard-Maillard.

"A little bit of rain is stopping voters from coming out. A lot of voters think that the election is already locked up and it's not," Dillard-Maillard said.

Like many other Democratic Party loyalists, Dillard-Maillard was worried that low turnout would hurt the party's statewide judicial candidates, including Philadelphian Seamus McCaffery, who is seeking a seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Philadelphia voters were also set to choose city council representatives and to decide four ballot questions.

Contact staff writer Patrick Kerkstra at 215-854-2827 or pkerkstra@phillynews.com.

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