The contours of Philadelphia's 2015 mayor's race finally emerged in sharp relief Wednesday with the entrance of two formidable Democratic candidates - former District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham and state Sen. Anthony H. Williams.

What had been a rather somnolent if nascent affair was given a jump start as the pair joined Terry Gillen, a former head of the Redevelopment Authority, and Ken Trujillo, a former city solicitor, in the race for the Democratic nomination.

Abraham, in particular, made a loud entrance, promoting herself a tough, outspoken leader who would be willing to "break some china" as mayor to get things done.

Williams signaled, in his remarks hours later, that his campaign was aimed at the city's neighborhoods, evoking the longstanding complaint from some that the health of Center City has received undue focus from City Hall.

"I don't want to be the mayor for just one part of town . . . we are "One Philadelphia," Williams said. "Where a single mom working a double-shift has the same shot at a good job, with fair pay and good benefits, as the guy in a double-breasted suit."

In justifying their decisions to run, both candidates offered somewhat pessimistic views of a city that many see as undergoing a renaissance.

Citing "disfunctional" leadership, failing schools and an underfunded pension system, Abraham said "we have a city in peril of failure."

Williams, 57, offered a litany of statistics that showed Philadelphia trailing other large cities in job growth, income equality, entrepreneurs per capita and reduding the number of children in poverty.

"In Philadelphia, for too long too many of our leaders have been stuck working in the same old political ways," he said. "Instead of finding ways to bring people together, our leaders too often have profited from the act of keeping us divided. Instead of demanding more from our leaders, we've become accustomed to settling for less."

Abraham, 73, held her coming out party at the Franklin Institute, where she spoke to about 200 supporters..

In her typical pugnacious style, the former prosecutor she said she had no intention to be timid in taking on problems facing the city.

"If you want a leader who will transform Philadelphia under the banner of reform, who has the experience to get things done, the grit, the desire and courage to break some china along the way, and turn Philadelphia into a great American city, I'm your candidate," she said.

She then went on to tick off positions on some pressing issues in city. In doing so, she promised to:

come up a plan for business tax reform within six months of taking office.

seek legislative approval for a 20-year tax abatement program for development in targeted parts of the city.

support the city's public, parochial and charter schools by pursuing a fairer state-wide method for funding education.

She also critized both the Nutter Administration's and City Council's handling the potential sale of the Philadelphia Gas Works and said she opposed the Nutter Administration's plan to dismantle the Department of License and Inspection and turn its enforcement duties over to the fire department.

Abraham also made much of her gender, arguing it was past time for the city finally to have female chief executive. She promised that if elected she would keep women's issues on the front burner. With that in mind, she promised to establish a Mayor's Office of Family Violence, to address the needs of women and children caught in the cycling of domestic violence.

A fixture in local government since the 1970s, Abraham was elected citywide four times as district attorney and is by far the best-known of the candidates now in the race.

With that longevity, however, comes concerns that at 73 her time might be past. Speaking in her typically rapid-fire stacatto, Abraham dismissed any question of her vitality.

"Nobody is going to out run me, out campaign me, out talk, out think me," she said. "I've got more energy than all the other candidates put together."

Williams launched his campaign five hours later at the Independence Hall Visitor Center.

He like Abraham, has deep roots in Philadelphia politics. He has been in the state Senate, toiling in the minority, for 16 years, but he's also a ward leader with a solid base in West Philadelphia.

Williams has been best-known for his support for charter schools and school choice - a position that puts him at odds with fellow Democrats and the teachers' union.

His unsuccessful 2010 gubernatorial run was aided by $5 million in donations from three executives of Susquehanna International Group who are strongproponents of school choice.

In his prepared remarks announcing his candidacy, Williams made no reference to charter schools, while eluding to need to tackle problems with the education system.

"I have no use for the tired old practice of pitting some parents in some schools against other parents in other schools," he said. "We have an obligation to prepare our children to be productive citizens for the future. We should be lifting up all Philadelphia school students. Our families are telling us, every day in every way that they cannot wait for us to fix the schools. It's time for us to get it done."

Williams also evoked the memory of his father, state Sen. Hardy Williams, who, he said, "changed the political landscape in Philadelphia forever . . ." when he ran for mayor in 1971.

"He gave people hope," Williams said. " . . . That's the kind of campaign I intend to run, one that listens to the concerns of all Philadelphians - regardless of what color you are, regardless of what sex you are, regardless of who you love . . . because we are one Philadelphia."

He asked the roomful of supporters to pick up the chant, and they did - "One Philadelphia, one Philadelphia."

With four mayoral candidates and counting.

chepp@phillynews.com

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