State Sen. Anthony H. Williams' campaign announced a surprise press conference Friday in an attempt to showcase his support from elected officials, millennials, and ethnic groups.
It was supposed to showcase a coalition similar to the one that some political observers have credited his opponent, former Councilman Jim Kenney, of assembling.
"I'm here today with millenials, seniors, Asians, Jews, whites, blacks. All have been a part of the 'One Philadelphia' perspective we have provided since the opening of this campaign," Williams said, referencing his campaign slogan.
Despite Williams' words, the press conference showcased what chaos could ensue from a hastily-planned political event on a downtown street.
Held outside Center City restaurant Estia, Williams supporters crowded a busy sidewalk while trucks idled outside the Academy of Music's loading docks across Locust Street. The reason for the location, according to a Williams press release, was that a new Franklin & Marshall College political poll was being unveiled at an event inside the restaurant.
In a poll released earlier this week, Williams trailed Kenney by double digits.
But on Friday, no new poll was released.
"I don't know where they got that from. It was not from me," said Franklin & Marshall's pollster Terry Madonna, who spoke at the Estia event. "I saw [Williams], but I didn't hear him or stop...The last thing thing I want to do is get in the middle of that."
The ticketed event had been organized by the Philadelphia Committee on City Policy. The group told Inquirer reporter Chris Brennan that they were not aware that Williams had staked out sidewalk in front of their event.
He said he organized the press conference because "all you guys were going to be here," referring to assembled reporters, while acknowledging his campaign was unaware a new mayoral poll didn't exist.
His campaign had also released a list of elected officials that were supporting Williams this morning. At the press conference, only Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez had appeared. She was tucked behind Williams and a row of fresh-faced millenials his campaign organized to showcase his appear to younger voters.
"Oh yeah I was trying stand back there, I didn't want to cover the millennials. I think they're prettier and you guys are tired of seeing me," Quinones-Sanchez said.
During the press conference Williams downplayed the significance of this week's poll and attacked Kenney's political support from shadowy fundraising groups related to union leader John Dougherty. At times during his speech, field operatives from non-profit Action United, also backing Kenney, repeatedly interrupted the state senator.
They shouted that Williams was backed by "suburban millionaires," handing out fliers that made similar accusations.
It was a reference to the partners at financial trading firm Susquehanna International Group, who are strong supporters of school choice. Union stagehands unloading props for the Academy across the street also shouted "Kenney."
Williams, who waited patiently for the interruptions to subside, dismissed the operatives as "thugs" paid for by Kenney and Dougherty.
"They have conducted themselves consistently like this during the campaign," Williams said. "Jim Kenney doesn't reflect anything except what John Dougherty tells him to."
As he finished his speech, Williams made references to statements by Kenney in which the former councilman implied he wanted to dump popular police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. The state senator has attracted criticism for remarks he made late in the race saying he would get rid of Ramsey.
After the press conference, Williams' staffers distributed print-outs of comments made by Kenney in February regarding the commissioner.
But a Kenney spokesman said the statement was a response he gave earlier in the campaign when asked who he would hire if Ramsey left the department.
"There's nothing in [that statement] that contradicts what Jim has said about Ramsey," said Kenney spokesperson Lauren Hitt. "Jim has always praised Commissioner Ramsey's leadership and repeatedly stated that if the Commissioner's national profile didn't take him elsewhere that Jim would welcome him in his administration."