The Rev. Jay Broadnax, president of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity, said his group had “high hopes“ for Mayor Jim Kenney when he first took office in 2016.
Three years later, it’s “disappointed and unsatisfied,” he said Tuesday morning as the group of pastors endorsed State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams in the May 21 Democratic primary for mayor.
Broadnax said that Kenney’s administration and the contracts it gives to vendors do “not reflect the diversity of the city,” and that he finds the mayor inaccessible and defensive about his record.
The pastors also cited a long list of city issues — violence and guns, gentrification and real estate taxes, the continuing use of “stop-and-frisk” tactics by police, poverty and jobs, the sweetened beverage tax, and education — as concerns on Election Day.
In addition to Williams, they interviewed Kenney and the other Democratic challenger, former City Controller Alan Butkovitz, before reaching a consensus, Broadnax said. Kenney, though a campaign spokesperson, said he respected the decision.
”We appeal to those in our community and in all communities: Do not stay home this election,” Broadnax said during a news conference at an Overbrook restaurant.
In accepting, Williams accused Kenney and his allies of trying to suppress primary voter turnout by acting as if there is no election campaign underway. He later cited Kenney’s limited campaign schedule as proof.
“There’s a strategy that turnout should be low,” Williams told the assembled clergy, who gathered with candidates for judge, City Council, sheriff, and other offices. “I want to be very clear. Our Democratic friends are participating in that process.”
Williams won the Black Clergy endorsement four years ago, when he and Kenney were among five candidates in the Democratic primary. But the organization faced a public rift in that decision, with some clearly supporting Kenney, who ultimately finished in that primary nearly 30 percentage points ahead of the second-place Williams.
Now, Williams said, the pastors are unified behind him for two reasons.
First, he said, Kenney has run the city as though he is “above and disconnected” from its residents. ”How he is campaigning is similar to how he’s governing,” Williams said.
And second, Williams said, he is running a different kind of campaign this year, with fewer financial resources but more ”grassroots” community contact. He reached back to the story of David and Goliath to describe his appeal to the clergy members.
“People told me, ‘Tony, last time you weren’t connected to us,’” Williams said. “You didn’t resonate with us. God humbled me to bring me here today.”