AT THE START of Tuesday's 35-minute press session, the six-term councilman's hands are trembling slightly.

Jim Kenney has played "Meet the Press" many times before, but this is big - his voice is tight as he announces he's leaving a job he's loved to chase one that he's lusted. He's running for mayor. Is destiny calling?

On his desk there are awards from a synagogue, SEPTA, a gay group - and an autographed Taney Dragons baseball. A Nation of Immigrants, by John F. Kennedy, sits on his desktop (hoping to be noticed by the press)?

No longer the equivocating Hamlet, Kenney is running - eight (or more) years after some say he should have.

That doesn't mean his time has passed.

In 2007, Councilman Michael Nutter won a five-way Democratic primary square-dance with a meager 36.6 percent of the vote and then won the general election, which Democrats have been doing for as long as most of us have been alive.

This year's primary will be another multicandidate brawl, although declared and undeclared candidates have been dropping like crab apples off a tree.

As of today, Kenney, 56, can be called the candidate of white male privilege, opposing former judges Lynne Abraham (female) and Nelson Diaz (Latino) and state Sen. Anthony Williams (African-American).

In the wings are former mayoral spokesman Doug Oliver (African-American) and former state Sen. Milton Street (African-American). White businessman Sam Katz and white City Controller Alan Butkovitz are doing the dance of the seven veils about a mayoral run.

Given Kenney's 23-year track record, and likely labor support, many observers see him as the instant front-runner. That's not a view shared by Johnny Dougherty, who leads the powerful electrical workers union.

Dougherty told me "if the field stays the way it is now, a majority" of labor would support Kenney, but he nevertheless sees Williams as a "prohibitive favorite."

Kenney is liked by most of the print and TV media because he's accessible, gives a good quote and if you touch a nerve you'll see his face turn stop-light red and his head explode.

Thin-skinned and hot-headed, Kenney doesn't suffer fools - or dissent - lightly. Once he defines his position as "fairness," the debate ends. If you oppose gay marriage, you're a hater. If you oppose illegal immigration, you're a bigot. His good heart sometimes overrules good judgment and he yields to juvenile impulses.

In a recent flameout he tweeted that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was "fat-assed" and "pathetic" for being a Cowboys fan. That was sophomoric dick-swinging. He earlier exchanged Twitter F-bombs with someone called The Moleman.

"He's accused of being thin-skinned, but he's passionate," says Council colleague Dennis O'Brien.

Far more serious was the earlier revelation that the friend of the working class was spending $28,000 for a company called ChatterBlast to tweet for him.

He has the third most expensive Council staff, in part because he hired staffers from South Philly political allies Anna Verna and Frank DiCicco when they left Council. That was a nice gesture, but how did that benefit taxpayers? (He's currently on the outs with DiCicco, who had been his BFF since they both were incubating in the Vince Fumo machine.)

Kenney's focus has been on gay issues, immigration, decriminalizing marijuana and looking out for the little guy, he said.

He showed poor judgment, as a city official, by telling Chick-fil-A, which brings jobs to the city, to "take a hike" because the company's president opposes gay marriage. No dissent allowed.

On Tuesday, Kenney said he learned the importance of good relations with Council from John Street (with whom he feuded), "who always had seven, eight votes at his availability." Kenney does not.

A Council source, speaking anonymously, said everyone pretty much "likes" Kenney, but he has no got-your-back allies.

If you're in Philly politics and you haven't fought with Kenney, you're not in Philly politics.

Kenney and Nutter started out as allies, but that turned acidic. Kenney fought bitterly with Bill Green when he was on Council. He feuded (and bad-mouthed) Frank Rizzo Jr. He hired, then fired, Rick Mariano before the future felon was elected to Council.

Kenney battled Dougherty, a friend from childhood. He turned his back on mentor Fumo. After long years in the club, he walked away from the Jokers Fancy Brigade. He is separated from his wife, Maureen.

He seems to have difficulty maintaining relationships, a serious problem for politicians who need personal connections.

I see Kenney most Fridays after work at the bar at the Palm.

I am having drinks with a friend.

He is almost always alone.

 

Phone: 215-854-5977

On Twitter: @StuBykofsky

Blog: ph.ly/Byko

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