Jim Kenney, the what-you-see-is-what-you-get candidate, said you are going to get even more if he is elected mayor of Philadelphia in November.

The former city councilman who engineered reduced penalties for minor marijuana possession pledged that police would stop issuing citations altogether for that offense: "It is a waste of time. It is a waste of money."

The critic of Mayor Nutter's distant relationship with City Council said that as mayor, he would invite Council President Darrell L. Clarke to seat his own financial experts at the table when the yearly budget is built.

The advocate for inmates who have served their time said he wants to improve their chances of finding meaningful work, especially with the city.

"People who have a criminal record need to work," the Democratic mayoral nominee said Thursday, as he sat for a relaxed and wide-ranging interview in his Center City headquarters on South Broad Street, at a table surrounded by some of his supporters. "The concept that once you make a mistake in your life, you're ruined forever - that is wrong. We are all redeemable. I will not give up on anybody."

A murmur of affirmation arose from all around the table.

State Rep. Cherelle L. Parker seemed to speak for everyone: "I'm proud to be part of this team."

Two days earlier, Kenney had won a shockingly easy victory to represent his party against Republican nominee Melissa Murray Bailey in November. He had strong support throughout every section of the city. An Irish American from South Philadelphia, Kenney notably struck a chord with the city's African Americans, who offered him surprisingly deep backing, considering his chief challenger was State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, who is black.

"Jim Kenney did not run from race," said Parker, herself African American. "He didn't say that 'because the neighborhoods you represent are African American, I'm going to stay away, because that is not my base.' No, he said: 'I'm going to go harder. I'm going to earn their support.' "

Kenney's broad face and slightly bloodshot eyes revealed a weariness not evident in his voice.

"I tell people the truth," he said, with a bit of a shrug.

He also benefited from a career-long interest in issues affecting marginalized or minority constituencies and a willingness to advance those groups' issues - as well as those of organized labor. Those tools enabled him to build a remarkable coalition of seemingly disparate groups.

The men and women who joined him Thursday at his Center City campaign headquarters offered an inkling of the breadth of that support.

Each with a story

Along with Parker, there was State Rep. Brian Sims, the state's first openly gay legislator; Mike Marsico, an LGBT activist; Marwan Kreidie, a Muslim community activist; Pat Eiding, president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Council; Nina Ahmad, president of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for Women; Andy Toy, a member of the Mayor's Commission on Asian American Affairs; Numa St. Louis, a Haitian American community activist; and Pedro Rodriguez, a Latino activist and health-care organizer.

Each had a story to explain his or her belief in Kenney.

Kreidie, for instance, recalled the then-city councilman visiting a mosque just days after 9/11 to assure Muslims there they would be safe.

That recollection elicited another shrug from Kenney.

"You had Sikh cabdrivers being pulled out of cabs and being beaten," he said, referring to reports from other parts of the country of attacks on turban-wearing Sikhs mistaken for Muslims.

Ahmad, who is Bangladeshi American, told of testifying at a hearing Kenney once held - on street harassment of women.

"I did not know him from Adam," she said. "I kept asking myself: 'Who is this white man of privilege who does not need to be doing anything like this?' "

Ahmad has been serving as Kenney's campaign guide to some of the city's Asian-immigrant neighborhoods.

"I'm always overwhelmed by the response of the immigrant communities," Kenney said. "They are so impressed that you have given them your time, which to me is a little unsettling and embarrassing. There is a formality that is stunning. Everyone has to give you a little welcoming speech. It makes you feel good that they have chosen Philadelphia to live."

He added, "They will go to the wall for this city if we can empower them."

There were lighthearted exchanges as well Thursday - such as when Kenney, an advocate of LGBT rights, described with a bit of amazement in his voice the reception he receives in gay bars.

"When I'm out in a gay club or bar," he said, hesitating for a moment, "they are really nice people." That elicited groans and good-natured chiding. ("You are being patronizing.")

There was a heart-palpitating moment for his campaign staff when Kenney announced: "I've been handcuffed once in my life."

A reenactment

What followed was a tale of a quick stop at a bar for cigarettes - only to be mistaken by a police stakeout squad outside the tavern for someone who had gone in to make a drug buy.

Kenney, in a reenactment of the episode, threw himself facedown on the table, arms behind his back like a handcuffed man: "I'm lying on the hood of the car, and there's this rookie cop - he must have been just out of the academy. I say, 'I'm not trying to resist, but can you tell me what I did?' He kinda whispers: 'I don't really know. Just let me put the cuffs on.' "

The room erupted with laughter - and relief upon hearing Kenney quickly had been released.

For all the camaraderie, there was still a question that begged an answer. What did they all expect of the candidate if he is elected in November? And how on earth could he ever deliver?

Kenney offered the candidate's response: "These people only want what's best for the city."

Eiding, the longtime labor leader, was a bit more candid. "A door," he said. "I want to be able to talk out problems."

Parker, as is her wont, was most blunt.

'Competing interests'

"This does not mean all the humongous problems facing Philadelphia will go away as soon as Jim Kenney is sworn into office," she said. "I love Jim Kenney, but he is not the Great White Hope."

"I hope not," Kenney chimed in.

"Yes, there will be competing interests," said Parker, who ran unopposed for a district Council seat on Tuesday's Democratic primary ballot. "We will have to resolve those conflicts. But you know what makes a difference when you go into negotiations? When you are sitting down with someone and you don't think they want to cut your throat."

Kenney looked on as she spoke.

"Communications and relationship-building make government run," he said. "There are going to be times when you have to ask people to take difficult positions for you. They need to be invested in you and know you care about them too."

All he was promising, he said, was "an open door and open mind."

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