THE CONVENTIONAL wisdom among Philly politicos is that state Sen. Anthony Williams, with his steadily growing campaign war chest, has a leg up over the field of candidates expected to run for mayor in 2015.
But they often mention one caveat: If Council President Darrell Clarke decides to jump in, it's a whole new race.
The political class got a chance to compare the two Democrats on Wednesday night, when Clarke and Williams held simultaneous campaign events in Center City.
Both camps say the curious timing - dueling fundraisers on a Wednesday night more than two years away from the 2015 primary - was mere coincidence.
The Williams event was a two-part affair. First, donors paid $500 to $2,900 to dine with him and U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, the city's Democratic Party boss, at Prime Rib. Then, Williams hosted a free "After Work Reception" at Warwick Hotel to recruit members to "Team Tony."
After being introduced by District Attorney Seth Williams and a charter-school student who credited the senator's work in Harrisburg with his education, Williams gave a speech that sounded awfully mayoral: "We stand right now on the precipice of greatness."
But he stopped just short of making it official.
"Tonight is not an announcement. Some of my friends have been pushing me to make an announcement - that's not going to happen," he said.
The large crowd included Council members Kenyatta Johnson and Maria Quinones-Sanchez and former controller candidate Brett Mandel.
For the Clarke event, dozens of supporters crammed into tiny Tietra on 15th Street near Locust for a "Young Friends Fundraiser" with tickets ranging from $50 (for students) to $500.
Outside, signs were hung that read, "Clarke 2015: A Bold Vision for Philadelphia," matching the website clarke2015.com.
But the Council president's lips are sealed when it comes to whether he'll run for re-election or for a new job in 2015.
"I'm just focused on trying to be the best Council president I can be," Clarke said yesterday, adding that he doesn't get involved with scheduling his fundraising events and did not plan the party to conflict with Williams'.
Many people attended both functions, including the chairman of Clarke's campaign committee, Charles Gibbs, who organized the Tietra event and swung by the Williams event.