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If you thought Mayor Jim Kenney was disengaged in the primary ... | Clout

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney drew criticism for a low-key approach to the 2018 Democratic primary election. He appears ready to expend even less effort on his bid for a second term in the Nov. 5 general election.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, right, is refusing to debate the Republican nominee, Billy Ciancaglini ahead of the Nov. 5 general election.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, right, is refusing to debate the Republican nominee, Billy Ciancaglini ahead of the Nov. 5 general election.Read moreDavid Maialetti; Tom Gralish (custom credit) / File Photographs

This is a Clout public-service announcement: Mayor Jim Kenney did not technically secure a second term in the Democratic primary election 10 days ago. He still must win the Nov. 5 general election.

Try telling him that. We asked Kenney about his plans to ignore Republican mayoral nominee Billy Ciancaglini.

“I don’t really care,” Kenney said Thursday. “I’m not talking about this.”

We kept asking anyway, even during an elevator ride. That’s the job. In all, Kenney refused to discuss the general election seven times in under two minutes. Finally, he tried to punt. "You should call the campaign,” Kenney said. “You’ll get more out of them.”

His campaign had already refused to answer. So on-brand.

This, mind you, is from the mayor whom one analyst described as “sleepwalking to a win” in the primary for mostly ignoring his two challengers, agreeing to just one joint forum and one televised debate.

Ciancaglini can expect even less.

Kenney, asked last week by WHYY if he would debate Ciancaglini, said: “It’s hard when the person associates themselves with white supremacists and neo-Nazis to give that person a platform, so probably not."

Let’s break that down. On March 8, a left-wing media collective, Unicorn Riot, released online what it said were internet messages sent by a white nationalist group, Identity Evropa. One of the messages said two Identity Evropa members met Ciancaglini on March 4 and liked what they heard.

Ciancaglini called that “asinine” and told Clout he hosted a public March 4 campaign event attended by about 100 people. No individuals introduced themselves as members of Identity Evropa or as white nationalists, he said.

A defense attorney and former Democrat, Ciancaglini has blistered Kenney. His brand of campaigning also includes launching a flame war against a South Philly restaurant for its charity for undocumented immigrants.

He hasn’t raised much and Democrats outnumber Republicans by 7-1 in Philadelphia. So Kenney is ignoring him.

We still have questions: Does the mayor have any proof Ciancaglini “associates” with racist organizations, beyond Unicorn Riot’s post? Does he feel a responsibility to substantiate the claim? Does he feel any duty to voters to engage in the political process before the election?

We got no answers. Still, we wished him a good day.

“I’ll have a better day when I’m not with you,” he said. On-brand, as always.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s pals have deep, dark pockets

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy isn’t up for reelection until 2021. So why is he starring in television ads in the Philadelphia media market?

New Direction NJ, a nonprofit group founded by Murphy’s political advisers, launched a $1 million ad campaign last week to promote the Democrat’s budget proposal and build support for a so-called millionaire’s tax.

New Direction started airing its latest ad Thursday. Titled “Break,” it features a diverse group of regular folks calling for higher taxes on the wealthy and to invest the proceeds in property tax relief. Millionaires “like me should pay our fair share in taxes,” Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs banker, says in the ad.

The ads, which will continue running through late June, are appearing on cable networks including CNN, Comedy Central, and ESPN.

They’ve been generating some controversy in Trenton, partly because New Direction has refused to disclose its donors despite initially pledging to do so. The group isn’t required by law to disclose its donors. (Politico reported the state’s largest teachers’ union contributed $2.5 million to the group.)

Murphy earlier this month conditionally vetoed legislation that would have required more disclosure by so-called dark money groups, saying it contained “egregious loopholes.” That was the latest salvo in a growing war between Murphy and allies of Senate President Steve Sweeney (D., Gloucester).

Leaders of the Democratic-controlled Legislature have resisted Murphy’s calls to impose a higher marginal tax rate on income above $1 million. If the governor and Legislature can’t agree on a budget deal by June 30, state government would likely shut down.

Early challenge for State Sen. Daylin Leach

The 2020 Democratic primary in Pennsylvania is still nearly 11 months away, but Sara Atkins was eager to be first in the race to challenge State Sen. Daylin Leach’s bid for a fourth term. She introduced herself this week with a video that laid out her history of health-care activism and Leach’s political vulnerability.

“When there’s a sexual harasser in your own backyard, you have to step up and replace them,” Atkins says, as headlines cover a picture of Leach. (On her lengthy resumé as a protester: picketing a Leach fund-raiser last year, demanding he resign.)

The Inquirer reported in 2017 that eight women and three men alleged the senator behaved inappropriately toward young female campaign staffers and volunteers. Then a Lehigh County woman accused Leach of luring her into performing oral sex on him in 1991 when she was 17 and he was a lawyer representing her mother on attempted-murder charges.

Leach has denied the accusations and sued his accuser, along with two Philadelphia-area activists who have supported her.

His district covers parts of Montgomery and Delaware Counties. The Democratic Parties in both counties called on him to resign earlier this year. He has refused and, in an email to supporters this week, said his work “on so many controversial issues earns me a steady stream of attacks.”