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Democrats Welcome Frank Rizzo Jr. Back To Democratic Party

By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A former Philadelphia city councilman is changing his voter registration,  the first step in an expected run for mayor in 2015.

But Frank Rizzo Jr. doesn't think Philadelphians will have difficulty voting for him -- in part because of name recognition.

Rizzo, son of the late mayor and police commissioner, was a Republican member of Philadelphia City Council for 16 years, but changed his party registration to Independent after losing his 2011 primary for re-election.

As of today, he sports a Democratic registration card.

Rizzo, a onetime Democrat, switched to the Republican Party when his father, the two-term Democratic mayor, became a Republican to run for mayor again in 1987.

"I switched my party to be supportive of him when he needed my vote in a Republican primary," Rizzo Jr. says today, "but even in my governing, my politics, I thought more like a Democrat."

US Rep. Bob Brady (D-Pa.), the city Democratic Party leader,  sat next to Rizzo today while Rizzo filled out the paperwork.

"I've been talking to Frank Rizzo for eight to ten years that he belongs in the Democratic Party," Brady said today.

Still, Brady says he and fellow ward leaders will remain neutral until all the mayoral candidates file petitions in early 2015, ahead of the spring primary.

"We won't endorse that candidate until all the Democratic City Committee -- the ward leaders -- get together, and then we move as one, hopefully," Brady said.

Rizzo Jr. served four terms in City Council, but his popularity took a big hit in 2011 for participating in the DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Plan) pension program that many voters saw as an undeserved windfall.

DROP allowed Rizzo to collect $194,000 and return to work if he had been reelected.   But Rizzo lost his bid for reelection as an Independent in the general election that year.

That same year, five of his colleagues on Council who took advantage of the DROP program retired rather than face voters' wrath.

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