The May 21 primary election is less than eight weeks away and Mayor Jim Kenney, facing two Democratic challengers, is still running an undercover campaign.
Kenney, who kicked off his bid for a second term last month with a video on social media, now announces endorsements and other milestones after the fact, with pictures of smiling supporters sent in emails and posted on Twitter. His campaign schedule, which is not available ahead of time, shows only private events in the last week.
One challenger, State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, is working to flush Kenney out into the public spotlight. Williams stood outside John Bartram High School in Southwest Philly with community activists this week to announce a “citywide peace pledge.”
There, Williams slipped not-so-accidentally off script and showed another flash of the class warfare imbuing his rematch against Kenney, who defeated him in the 2015 primary.
“I’ll just stop, unfortunately, to interject something controversial,” Williams said before asking the 13 anti-violence activists there to raise their hands if they support supervised injection sites where people dealing with addiction can use drugs, access rehabilitation services, and be revived by medical personnel if they overdose. No hands went up.
Williams, who has been touting his neighborhood roots while suggesting Kenney has abandoned his, said the plan to open the nation’s first supervised injection site in the city came from people who are “well-intentioned” but don’t live in the communities that will be affected.
“Some may look like they’re from the community, but they’re not from there,” Williams said, before casting his eye toward pricier zip codes. “Now if they want to put one of those sites in East Falls or Rittenhouse Square or Chestnut Hill, I guess we’ll take an opportunity to experiment. But until these sites don’t end up in neighborhoods that already have problems, we’re going to have challenges.”
The other Democratic challenger, former City Controller Alan Butkovitz, and Billy Ciancaglini, the lone Republican, also oppose supervised injection sites, guaranteeing we’ll be watching this political fight for at least seven more months.
Kenney’s office, told of Williams’ comments, reiterated his support for a private operator running what they call an overdose prevention site. The goal: to “try and save as many lives as we can,” mayoral spokesperson Deana Gamble said in an email.
“We recognize any site will cause challenges and those issues deserve a robust discussion to make sure they’re addressed,” Gamble said.
Williams wrapped up his event this week with a nod toward Kenney’s ghost campaign, calling on him to speak rather than relying on city or campaign spokespeople.
“I don’t want to hear a snarky comment from someone who doesn’t live in the hood, never been in the hood, doesn’t understand the hood, doesn’t give a damn about the hood," he said. “I want to hear from the mayor who represents the hood.”
Sheriff Jewell Williams was one of more than 80 candidates who made a pitch this week for endorsement by the Democratic City Committee. Things may not go his way this year. And that would be a big change for Williams, facing three primary challengers while taking serious heat for sexual-harassment cases.
Former U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, the local party chairman, said there will be no “rubber-stamping” of Williams’ bid for a third term. The party could remain neutral, he added. Either way, Brady expects plenty of debate when the party meets to vote on endorsements.
“If we meet for two hours, an hour and a half will be about that,” he said.
A group of protesters gathered outside Monday evening as Williams was interviewed by the party’s Policy Committee. They waved signs saying “Sheriff Jewell Williams must go” and “You have disgraced the uniform.”
The city’s Law Department last month agreed to pay $127,000 to a former Sheriff’s Office employee. The Democratic caucus of the state House settled another sexual-harassment suit in 2011 for $30,000, filed against Williams when he was a state representative. Another Sheriff’s Office employee has a sexual-harassment case pending in federal court.
Not granting the endorsement would be a major shift for the party, which practically preordained Williams as sheriff in 2010, a year before he won his first term. Williams did not respond to requests for comment.
The business model is simple: Talk-show host Wendy Williams walks among her studio audience with a microphone, getting people to act out for the fleeting attention of TV viewers.
This week, that meant watching former City Representative Desiree Peterkin Bell talking to Williams about a “frenemy” who she claimed pasted a picture of her head onto the naked body of a woman on a beach and posted it online. Bell seemed mostly perturbed that the body was “flat-chested” since she identifies as “Team Double-D.”
If the name rings a bell – sorry, had to do it – that’s because Bell was charged with several crimes in November, accused of misspending nearly $250,000 from the Mayor’s Fund, a city-run nonprofit, while working for former Mayor Michael Nutter. She is awaiting trial.