Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said Thursday that he will not run for statewide office next year, opting not to enter Pennsylvania’s open races for governor and U.S. Senate.
“I’m certainly not running for governor,” Kenney said in an interview.
Asked if he is certainly not running for Senate either, Kenney said: “Yes.”
He then added with a laugh: “Now, if [Sen. Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer calls me and wants me to take a train ride down, I’d think about it.”
The possibility of Kenney, a Democrat, resigning as mayor to pursue a statewide run arose in the fall of 2019, when he was coasting to reelection after a first term with several significant wins, including the passage of the sugary-beverage tax and the return of local control of the School District of Philadelphia. At the time, it appeared Kenney might be able to count on significant support from organized labor and progressive groups.
Kenney discussed the possibility of running for higher office with potential backers, who told The Inquirer about the mayor’s thinking. His campaign at the time neither confirmed nor denied that he might pursue higher office.
Kenney’s political fortune and support have since dipped, as his administration struggled to navigate the crises of the last year and a half.
The city was heavily criticized for its response to the demonstrations after the May 2020 police killing of George Floyd, assailed for being both unprepared to prevent looting and heavy-handed in dealing with peaceful protesters. The ordeal cost Kenney backing among the city’s progressive activists.
The administration also took heat for its vaccine distribution plan and had to cut ties with the group Philly Fighting COVID, which it had tasked with running the first city-managed mass vaccination clinic, after questions were raised about management decisions by the group, run by a recent Drexel University graduate with no medical experience.
Most recently, Kenney was intensely criticized even by allies for declining to declare a state of emergency over Philadelphia’s gun-violence crisis. U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Pa.), who played a key role in Kenney’s win in the 2015 mayoral race, publicly urged the mayor to change his stance.
The mayor said that issuing such a declaration — which, unlike a federal declaration after a natural disaster, does not unlock new funding — would not make a difference and that his administration was already dedicated to stemming the violence.
A South Philadelphia native, Kenney spent more than two decades on City Council after serving as chief of staff for former State Sen. Vince Fumo. Like all of his recent predecessors except Ed Rendell, who became governor, Kenney’s political career looks likely to end with the mayor’s office, which he holds until January 2024.