You know the drill by now. Clout asks politicians three “hot seat” questions every Election Day.
Sometime the answers make news, as on Tuesday, when Gov. Tom Wolf gave Attorney General Josh Shapiro a tacit endorsement in the 2022 race for governor.
Often they dodge, but that can be just as newsy, showing us what politicians don’t want to discuss.
Few would address, during their primary election hot seat sessions in May, if they thought John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty would be convicted, acquitted, or plead guilty in the federal case against him and seven others from politically potent Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
We posed our questions to 25 politicians Tuesday during lunch at the Famous 4th Street Deli in Queen Village and Relish in West Oak Lane:
Will Mayor Jim Kenney run for governor in 2022?
Will City Councilman Bobby Henon, who was indicted with Dougherty, be retained as Council majority leader in January?
Which Democrat would you like to see drop out of the 2020 presidential race today?
On Kenney, Wolf said, “I dunno. That’s my guy right there,” pointing at Shapiro, who is expected to seek a second term as attorney general next year and then run for governor in 2022. Having made news, Wolf dodged the other questions.
Shapiro, rarely an off-the-cuff speaker, said we’d have to ask Kenney if he’s running and then also dodged the other questions.
Kenney seemed uncertain and surprised. (Clout wants credit if that becomes his 2022 campaign slogan.) The Inquirer reported last week that Kenney is mulling a run.
“It’s certainly a possibility, but I don’t know,” Kenney said. “You’re asking everybody if I’m running for governor?” He too dodged the other questions.
State Treasurer Joe Torsella, another potential 2022 contender, answered the Kenney question by quoting Ed Rendell, a mayor who went on to be governor.
“Ed Rendell always said being mayor was more fun,” Torsella said. “So if I had to guess, no.”
Torsella had “no idea” about Henon and, after 45 seconds of deep thought, offered up that entrepreneur Andrew Yang should drop his bid for president. But then Torsella second-guessed himself, saying Yang “has some interesting ideas.”
Some other answers:
City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart said a Kenney run seems unlikely but “stranger things have happened in politics." She said Henon would be reelected as majority leader “as long as he’s found not guilty.” All of the Local 98 defendants have pleaded not guilty. Their trial is in September. Rhynhart also wanted some candidates to drop out of the presidential race but offered no specific names.
Councilwoman Helen Gym said it would be “surprising” but possible that Kenney runs. She called Henon “a good majority leader” but wondered if someone else will run for the post. And she wished former Vice President Joe Biden would “get behind one of the other Democrats.”
Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez called a Kenney run “not likely" and said “hopefully not” about Henon as majority leader. She’d also like to see U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey bow out.
Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. thinks Kenney will run. And Jones, who lost the post of majority leader to Henon in January 2016, expects Henon to face the same fate. Jones also wants Booker to bail.
Councilman Kenyatta Johnson is “wait and see” on Kenney and expects Henon to remain as majority leader. As for the presidential race? “That little guy — what’s the little guy who’s a mayor?” he asked. That would be Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind. “Yeah, tell him to go ahead, move out. He’s taking up air space.”
Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown also had problems recalling Buttigieg’s name. “Not meaning to be disrespectful, but I can’t pronounce his name,” she said, adding that as an African American she saw him as “mishandling the situation with people who look like me” in his town. Buttigieg was heavily criticized this summer for how he handled the uproar after a white police officer shot an unarmed black man in South Bend.
City Commissioner Lisa Deeley sees a “50-50 chance” Kenney runs, and is all in for Henon. “I worked for Bobby Henon,” she said. “I’m one of the founding members of Team Henon.” And she wants U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, to withdraw, “because he’s not really a Democrat.”
Republican City Committee meeting Tuesday to discuss its future
We told you yesterday that Mike Meehan, chairman of the Republican City Committee, declared the entire 2019 election cycle “preposterous” in a letter to ward leaders Monday. By Wednesday, Meehan was hearing calls for his resignation.
Now he has scheduled a special meeting for Tuesday evening, in part to fill the posts of treasurer and general counsel, which were vacated by resignations. Is Meehan next?
It’s possible. Meehan says he hopes to hear from ward leaders before Tuesday and, if there is a consensus in time for the 48-hour notice in the bylaws, he may call an election for chairperson.
“It’s got to be the right people,” he added about the input. “There’s a whole lot of frauds in this whole thing.”
How bad is the state of Republican affairs? Sam Katz, who ran three times for mayor as a Republican, spoke about the party in our story Thursday and then asked us to clarify that he is now registered as an independent.
“Radical liberals in the Working Families Party are trying to eliminate the GOP from Philadelphia city government. These far-left socialists want to raise our taxes, implement socialized medicine, and declare war on middle-class families.” — a robo-call Monday from the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia’s political action committee. WFP candidate Kendra Brooks won a seat the next day, defeating Republican Councilman Al Taubenberger.