Another day closer to the primary, another mayoral event with no mayor.
The Philadelphia Education Fund presented a forum Monday at the National Constitution Center to discuss “the mayor’s role in public education.”
Mayor Jim Kenney, who is seeking a second term in the May 21 Democratic primary, skipped it.
Kenney’s primary challengers, State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams and former City Controller Alan Butkovitz, spent about 90 minutes talking about education. They also used Kenney’s absence to knock him for ghosting the event.
“This is a mayoral forum, and the mayor is missing,” Williams said. “So I really am annoyed.”
Butkovitz called Kenney’s decision “very disappointing.”
KYW Newsradio is holding a mayoral debate on Thursday. Williams and Butkovitz will again have the stage to themselves. Kenney refused to participate.
The mayor has been keeping an active schedule of official events. But his campaign shrugs off almost all political events, especially if they involve interacting with challengers.
In the last week, Kenney has skipped a forum for Women Connected, a coalition of African American women’s groups, along with candidate events in Northwest Philadelphia and Hunting Park.
Kenney has agreed to just two joint appearances with Williams and Butkovitz, an April 22 forum that was hosted by the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists and a debate to be televised May 13 by NBC10.
“At this time, we will not be considering additional invitations for the mayor to participate in candidate forums or debates,” said Harrison Morgan, a spokesperson for Kenney’s campaign.
That’s a change from four years ago, when Kenney resigned from his seat on City Council to become one of five candidates in the primary. Kenney won that race with 56 percent of the vote after more than 70 candidate forums and four debates.
Kenney kept a more limited schedule during the run-up to the 2015 general election, which he won with 85 percent of the vote. One of two television debates was canceled after NBC10 and Kenney’s campaign could not reach agreement on his objection to split-screen camera close-ups.
His standard refrain these days for avoiding his adversaries is that being mayor is a full-time job that keeps him busy all day and most nights.
“I made a pledge to myself and my staff that I wasn’t going to replace the mayoral stuff with campaign stuff,” Kenney told the Inquirer Editorial Board last week. “This makes it more complicated. My schedule is not pleasant.”
Kenney also said his campaign’s internal polling, along with two polls from sources he declined to identify, show him polling above 60 percent in the primary, a comfortable cushion in a city where Democratic mayors seeking reelection have won for close to seven decades.
Kenney acknowledged the power of incumbency in an interview last month, saying he has no obligation to help his challengers.
"It’s not my responsibility to provide them with face time or opportunities,” Kenney said. “They have to create them themselves, as I do both as a mayor and as a candidate.”