The final televised debate in the Democratic primary for Philadelphia mayor ended Tuesday evening with State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams going negative - on Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey.
Williams, who has seen his front-runner status in the race usurped by former City Councilman James F. Kenney, had been expected to focus on exposing Kenney's political vulnerabilities.
That didn't happen until after the cameras were turned off.
All of the candidates in the live debate at 6ABC said the city has a problem with racial profiling by police. They all pledged to end the controversial stop-and-frisk policy instituted by Mayor Nutter in 2008.
But Williams went further, calling Ramsey a "fine man" who needs to lose his job for overseeing stop-and-frisk.
"People have to be replaced when they stand for a policy that people don't trust," Williams said.
This was Williams' first time making that point before reporters. But he could not claim it solely for himself.
Former State Sen. T. Milton Street Sr. accused Williams of copying his position on Ramsey.
Kenney and former District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham said they would keep Ramsey as the top cop if he still wanted the job.
"I think he's a decent man," Kenney said. "I think he's done his best at his job."
Former Common Pleas Court Judge Nelson A. Diaz and former Philadelphia Gas Works executive Doug Oliver would not commit during the debate to keeping Ramsey on the job.
The candidates had a mostly cordial discussion of issues, including taxes and how to lure businesses to the city, along with how to fund public education and municipal pensions.
They covered little new ground after four debates and about 70 candidate forums.
After the debate, Williams said he had previously "sort of equivocated" when asked about Ramsey's job status, but recently announced in a small meeting attended by no reporters that he had changed his position.
Williams laughed when asked if his campaign had polled on Ramsey's approval rating.
"No. No. Not to my knowledge," he said.
Williams said the debate's format of 45-second answers to specific questions prevented him from targeting Kenney's policy positions in detail.
Street, however, spent much of the debate going after Williams, accusing him of being "bought" by the founders of Susquehanna International Group, a Main Line stock-trading firm. Those three men are funding millions of dollars in television ads supporting Williams.
Abraham used her closing statement to hit Williams on the same topic. She also noted Kenney's strong support from unions.
"Everyone knows you cannot be a mayor for sale to the highest bidder," she said.
Abraham later said voters are looking for leadership, not "silly" political fights in debates.
"I think the people want to see the character and the heart of the candidate," she said. "I don't know that they're illuminated by combativeness or fighting."
Williams on Tuesday began airing the race's first negative television commercial, critical of Kenney for comments he made in 1997 about restrictions on use of force by police officers.
Kenney said after the debate that he "repudiated" the comments in the Williams ad.
"I regret them," he said. "I'm embarrassed by them. I wouldn't say them again. Certainly my career is not emblematic of those comments. I had a bad day."
Asked if he would go negative on Williams, Kenney said that was not part of his job.
"I don't know," he said. "I'm the candidate. I'm not the strategist."