THE 2015 RACE for mayor spiraled into a series of smackdowns this week between Lynne Abraham, a declared candidate, and City Council President Darrell Clarke's campaign for . . . he won't say what.

Abraham, a former District Attorney, got the ruckus rolling by slamming Clarke for his "shameful failure of leadership" on Mayor Nutter's proposed sale of the Philadelphia Gas Works.

The company seeking to buy PGW killed that proposal last week after Council refused to hold public hearings.

Charles Gibbs, chairman of Clarke's political-action committee, responded Wednesday with a tweet about leadership, adding the city next year will "elect a mayor, not gunslinger."

Gibbs' tweet cited Abraham's successful opposition to the 1997 nomination of Common Pleas Court Judge Frederica Massiah-Jackson for a federal judgeship.

Massiah-Jackson would have been the first black woman on the federal bench in Philadelphia.

"You see, the gunslinging ways of the former D.A. is why the Innocence Project is so busy," Gibbs said in a follow-up tweet, referring to the nonprofit that seeks DNA testing for inmates who claim to be wrongly convicted.

Abraham said Gibbs is tweeting as Clarke's "amanuensis," a legal term in Latin for one who writes while another dictates.

"He's just a young lawyer trying to make his stripes," Abraham said of Gibbs. "Charles doesn't know or care about the truth at this point. He's busy hustling for Darrell."

It was inevitable that Abraham's record as District Attorney would come into play during her bid for the mayor's office.

The New York Times Magazine in 1995 dubbed her "The Deadliest D.A." for her frequent requests for death-penalty sentences.

Abraham and Clarke are both Democrats.

Clarke yesterday continued to be coy about whether he will run for mayor or a fifth term on Council. He is holding a campaign fundraiser tomorrow during the annual Pennsylvania Society weekend in New York.

"The simple reality is that you need to be in a position to raise revenue to get your message out and be supportive of other members who are seeking office," Clarke said of the fundraiser, one of several he has held recently.

So will he run for mayor?

"There's one reality: At no point did I say I was running for mayor," Clarke said. "A number of people are interested in me running for mayor. I can't deny that."

Abraham yesterday said she had just received an invitation to Clarke's fundraiser.

She prodded Clarke for not saying if he will run for mayor.

"Let him declare his candidacy," Abraham said. "Stop being reluctant. Declare your candidacy and let's get on with it."

So will Abraham be attending Clarke's fundraiser?

"I'm not giving him a dime," Abraham said. "It's another fundraiser for him to decide if he's going to decide."

Knox for Williams

Tom Knox, a Center City millionaire and former candidate for mayor and governor, is endorsing state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams for mayor in the May 19 Democratic primary.

"Tony understands that Philadelphia cannot meet the challenges we face with the same old recycled solutions," Knox said in an advanced copy of a news release obtained by Clout.

Knox, a deputy mayor when Ed Rendell ruled City Hall, finished second to Nutter in the 2007 Democratic primary for mayor. Knox ran briefly for governor in 2010 and toyed with the idea of challenging Nutter in 2011.

He also scheduled a campaign kickoff for mayor in November 2013 that was to have been followed by a fundraiser, but called it off and decided against running.

Early jump for Joe T.

The 2016 primary election is 501 days away but Democrat Joe Torsella is hoping to catch some attention at Pennsylvania Society this weekend for his bid that year to be state treasurer.

We hear Torsella's campaign account is already at the $950,000 mark, more than enough to be a serious player.

Comcast Executive Vice President David L. Cohen hosted a fundraiser for Torsella last week attended by about 100 people.

"We had a large, bipartisan group of folks from business, government and the nonprofit community," Cohen said in an email.

Cohen went on to call Torsella "exactly the smart, tough and decisive leader we desperately need in our state government."

Torsella, who lives in Flourtown, was also a deputy mayor in Rendell's administration and then chairman of the state Board of Education. He briefly ran for the U.S. Senate in 2009 and most recently served as the U.S. Representative for Management and Reform at the United Nations.

Torsella told us he has "been incredibly heartened by the response" from early fundraisers.

Phone: 215-854-5973

On Twitter: @ChrisBrennanDN