Just how much does money matter in the 2019 Democratic primary for mayor in Philadelphia?

Consider two factors from the 2015 primary now on track to repeat this year.

So-called independent expenditure political action committees are spending more so far than the three candidates in the race. Similar PACs spent more than all six candidates in the 2015 primary.

But having the biggest stack of cash doesn’t signal a winner or seem to change many minds.

Philly 2019, a new PAC funded by Mayor Jim Kenney’s political allies in the building trades unions, started airing television commercials in support of his reelection bid on April 3. It spent $364,901 in April for those ads.

The American Beverage Association, which opposes the sweetened-beverage tax Kenney pushed into law to fund pre-K and other city programs, started airing television and radio commercials critical of him three days later. The ABA spent $521,196 on those ads.

And now, Forward Together Philadelphia is scheduled to start airing pro-Kenney ads Friday, spending $125,000 for four days of television. The chairman of that new PAC, Kevin Vaughan, also ran a similarly named PAC in 2015 that spent $1.4 million to support Kenney, drawing money from public-school teachers’ unions.

That’s more than $1 million in spending by three PACs to reach out to voters in a month. For context, Kenney and his two challengers, State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams and former City Controller Alan Butkovitz, spent a combined $599,831 on their campaigns from Jan. 1 to April 1.

These PACs don’t have to follow the city’s campaign finance limits as long as they don’t coordinate with candidates. So what came of all that money?

A poll by Global Strategy Group commissioned by Philly 2019 from April 17 to 20 of 500 likely Democratic voters found 52 percent supported Kenney for reelection while 19 percent went for Williams and 6 percent backed Butkovitz. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

The same firm in a January poll found Kenney leading with 58 percent while Williams took 16 percent and Butkovitz was at 8 percent.

In other words, with nearly $900,000 spent on television ads already and more on the way, not much has changed.

We’ve seen this before. Williams entered the 2015 primary as the front-runner, supported by a PAC that spent $7.5 million. Kenney, who took the lead in polling that year, was backed by three PACs that spent nearly $4 million, including a different building trades union PAC that put up $1.8 million.

Kenney won with 55.8 percent.

Sheriff candidate Rochelle Bilal.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Sheriff candidate Rochelle Bilal.

Krasner offering limited support for ally in sheriff’s race

Rochelle Bilal, one of three Democrats challenging Sheriff Jewell Williams in the May 21 primary, is thrilled to have District Attorney Larry Krasner’s photograph in her campaign literature.

Bilal, head of the Guardian Civic League, threw her support behind Krasner’s 2017 primary bid. And she defended him in January when John McNesby, president of Lodge 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police, accused Krasner on Fox News of running the District Attorney’s Office like “a carnival act.”

Her ties to Krasner appear to have cost her a shot at the FOP’s endorsement.

So what else is Krasner doing to help Bilal in her election? Well, not much.

A Krasner spokesman on Thursday said he is only endorsing Kenney this year. And he hasn’t donated to Bilal’s campaign so far.

Bilal said Krasner is supporting her by asking others to support her.

“He is talking to some of his friends who are donating to my campaign from his [fund-raising] list,” she said.

Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge Alice Beck Dubow watches from the audience of the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday as U.S. Attorney General William Barr testifies about his handling of the report by special counsel Robert Mueller.
C-Span
Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge Alice Beck Dubow watches from the audience of the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday as U.S. Attorney General William Barr testifies about his handling of the report by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Judging the audience as Barr testifies

All eyes were on U.S. Attorney General William Barr Wednesday as he testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee about how he handled the report from special counsel Robert Mueller.

But who was that sitting just over Barr’s right shoulder in the second row of the audience, a seat that spent much of the day in the camera frame as Barr sparred and bantered with senators?

Well, hello, Superior Court Judge Alice Beck Dubow. She seemed especially interested in Barr’s testimony when he returned from lunch and corrected some things he had said earlier that day.

Dubow did not take us up on our offer to discuss her day in the shared spotlight.

A spokesperson for the court emailed: “Judge Dubow attended the Senate hearing as a member of the public, interested in a congressional proceeding that is part of a national discussion.”

Documentary filmmaker Tigre Hill is making "Shame of The City," his 2006 film about the 2003 mayor's race in Philadelphia, free for viewing for the month of May.
STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
Documentary filmmaker Tigre Hill is making "Shame of The City," his 2006 film about the 2003 mayor's race in Philadelphia, free for viewing for the month of May.

‘Shame of the City’ now free to watch … and eerily prescient

Documentary filmmaker Tigre Hill is making Shame of the City, his revealing look at the 2003 race for mayor, available for viewing free on Vimeo.com for the month of May.

The film, released in 2006, tells the behind-the-scenes story of then-Republican nominee Sam Katz’s attempt to defeat Mayor John Street’s bid for a second term.

It’s got everything — combative campaigning, FBI surveillance of political figures, conspiracy theories about the U.S. Department of Justice meddling in elections, and endless spinning from a dizzy cast of characters.

Does that sound like anything you saw on television this week?