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Anthony Williams moves closer to challenging Jim Kenney, using Local 98 ties to taint the Philly mayor | Clout

State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams made a series of moves this week that suggest he is creeping closer to challenging Mayor Kenney's bid for a second term.

State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams (left) is creeping closer to a Democratic primary challenge of Mayor Jim Kenney.
State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams (left) is creeping closer to a Democratic primary challenge of Mayor Jim Kenney.Read moreStephanie Aaronson / File Photograph

Three moves by State Sen. Anthony H. Williams this week suggest he is creeping closer to challenging Mayor Jim Kenney in the May 21 Democratic primary.

First, Williams has people circulating nomination petitions, collecting the 1,000 signatures from Democratic voters he needs by March 12 to get his name on the ballot.

Second, Williams declared that he will not accept campaign donations from Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers after that union’s leader, John J. “Johnny Doc” Dougherty, City Councilman Bobby Henon, and six other union officials were indicted three weeks ago.

Third, that statement, which said, “The current political environment is seriously tainted by allegations of undue influence and corruption that has reached into City Hall and are casting a shadow over the Mayor’s Office," was issued by the “Williams Exploratory Committee.” That’s new.

Williams didn’t mention Kenney in any of that. He didn’t need to. Kenney told reporters on the day Dougherty was indicted that he would continue to accept political support from Local 98. And he attended a Center City fund-raiser for his reelection campaign, hosted by Local 98, the next day, sneaking out the back door later to avoid reporters.

Expect more of this. Candidates for public office this year will be studying campaign finance reports, using Local 98 ties to brand competitors as too cozy with corrupting influences.

Some of the politicians using that tactic will likely have been previously funded by Local 98. Williams, for instance, has received $447,000 in Local 98 money and political support since 2000, according to an Inquirer analysis of the union’s political action committee.

Kenney campaign spokesperson Harrison Morgan knocked Williams declaration about Local 98 money as "nothing more than a shallow and hypocritical political stunt.”

“If Senator Williams is so outraged, he should return the more than $400,000 he has accepted from Local 98 over the years,” Morgan said.

Williams told Clout he will announce his intentions for the mayor’s race “in the coming days, not weeks.”

We wondered, how would a 2019 campaign compare with 2015, when Williams finished a distant second to Kenney in a six-candidate primary? Williams said he would organize his campaign to be more “bottom-up,” rather than the “top-down” model he used four years ago. That means using more technology and data sharing to reach out and talk to voters.

“It’s about rowhouse families, people in poverty, impacted by unemployment,” Williams said of his message to those voters. “All of us would like to think we have progressive values, but when the majority of us are not making progress, we have to speak to the truth about Philadelphia.”

A word of caution here: Williams publicly flirted with a 2011 challenge to then-Mayor Michael Nutter’s bid for a second term. In the end, he didn’t enter that race.

As predicted, the Battle of the Barrio

Did we say candidates are going to batter each other with Local 98 ties? Hey, here’s an email from City Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez knocking her Democratic primary opponent, State Rep. Angel Cruz, for his close ties to Local 98.

Quiñones-Sánchez is seeking a fourth term in Council’s majority-Latino 7th District, where the Democratic ward leaders have again denied her their endorsement. Cruz is one of those ward leaders. Go figure. Clout predicted this long-festering fight last month.

In an email blast to supporters, Quiñones-Sánchez cited the indictments and declared herself “disappointed but not surprised" by the ward leaders. She also noted Local 98 “spent over $100,000” in the final week of the 2015 primary, giving that money to wards and organizations backing her then-primary opponent, Manny Morales. Cruz’s 7th Ward received $25,000 of that money.

“I don’t hide it,” Cruz said Thursday. “John Dougherty is my friend.”

Cruz, now in his 10th two-year term in Harrisburg, has received $141,334 in contributions and other support from Local 98′s Committee on Political Education since 2000.

Will he take more from the union this year? Cruz says he has asked Local 98 for support, and we’ll find out when he files his first campaign finance report for 2019 in early April.

And he noted that Quiñones-Sánchez accepted $2,500 from Local 98 in 2007.

For now, he’s the financial underdog. Quiñones-Sánchez reported having nearly $115,000 in her campaign account as of Dec. 31. Cruz reported having just $1,553 at the end of the year in the account he uses to run for the state House.

Mike Stack III and the 10th District

We slipped into the campaign fund-raiser held Tuesday by former Lt. Gov. Mike Stack III to see what we could determine about his political future. We didn’t get much of a hint from him.

But the city’s Board of Elections roster of candidates pulling nomination petitions lists Stack as collecting signatures in City Council’s 10th District, held by Councilman Brian O’Neill, a Republican now in his 10th term.

“I love the city, and I love public service,” Stack told us as former State Sen. Vince Fumo and State Sen. Larry Farnese mingled at the fund-raiser. “I’ve always felt like I could contribute a lot. So I’m still focused on how we can best serve our city and our region.”

O’Neill would make a formidable opponent, listing $445,324 in his campaign account as of Dec. 21. Stack, as we told you last week, has $10,593 in the bank and $137,814 in debt, including $90,000 owed to his mother, former Municipal Court Judge Felice Stack, and $33,000 owed to himself.

And Stack has primary competition. Two Democrats, Judy Moore and Taras Smerechanskyy, are also circulating nomination petitions in the district.