Every Friday from now until the primary (that’s May 19!) we’ll take a look at the past week to update you on who’s up, who’s down and what you absolutely need to know about the election.
Less than two weeks remain before Philadelphia will choose its next mayor, and as we get into the home stretch, the people who support Tony Williams are straight up making it rain. The state Senator is down in the polls, and his people are spending a truckload of cash money to make sure you can’t watch TV without having Williams’ face etched into your brain. Meanwhile, the candidates have been arguing over what most of the rest of the country is: Policing. Let’s get into the weekly recap.
(Want up-to-the-minute updates on the mayor’s race as it evolves? Follow our story, and we’ll send you an email when news happens.)
Former DA Lynne Abraham had some kind of momentum in the early months of this campaign, but that’s waned as Jim Kenney and Anthony Williams pull ahead, anecdotally speaking and in all the totally biased polls we’ve seen.
She released another TV ad this week, and analysts are saying it fails to help out her case. While it was about education, Abraham already put out an ad that focused on her willingness to work with both public schools and charters. She needs a new shtick — fast.
Here’s a look at it:
Abraham also got one of the toughest questions of the Next Mayor debate earlier this week, when WHYY’s Dave Davies asked her if she’s prepared to be the mayor, asking what exactly she’s done to get ready for such a high-up public office. She responded that she’s been working with advisers and consultants.
Nelson Diaz released a new ad, but is too late? Nelson Diaz is qualified, but are his odds too low? Seems like everything written about Judge Diaz’ chances of winning this election comes with some sort of caveat. Maybe it’s the fact that he has little name recognition and is polling in the single digits, or maybe it’s that he just can’t seem to garner the same amount of widespread support as some of his counterparts.
Here’s a look at his ad, which targets Kenney and Williams:
Also of note: Diaz filed his campaign finance reports early, and those numbers were available this morning. In the last four months, the former judge has raised nearly $400,000, but that includes more than $150,000 he loaned to himself that remains unpaid. More here.
Look, based on what we can tell even with the lack of unbiased polling in this race, it feels like Kenney is leading this thing — or he’s at least gained the most momentum as of late. In addition to being the target of pretty much everyone at the Next Mayor debate, he’s also found himself the victim of a widespread ad put out by Tony Williams’ campaign that paints Kenney as a guy who is cool with police brutality.
And none of his competitors would really care about paying for ads or attacking him at debates if they didn’t think he was well in the lead. Being on the defensive this late in the game is probably good for Kenney and his camp. But all that Williams cash going toward the airwaves could spell late trouble for this former councilman.
Man, if effort alone could win mayoral elections, Doug Oliver would have been a strong contender. From this beginning, this guy has shown up for hours a day on subway platforms, talking with average Philadelphians about how he hopes to make the city better. Those tireless days were the subject of a profile this week in The Inquirer. But will his efforts translate to votes? Pundits say maybe, but not enough to matter.
Oliver also garnered an endorsement this week from Philly Set Go, a millennially-focused PAC that picked Oliver because he’s “unburdened by obligations to the Philadelphia political establishment, including the traditional powerhouse of organized labor.”
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Milton Street’s stock is actually not down this week. (It’s a gift, I know.) In an interview with Al Dia News Media, Street made some good points that will bode well for his campaign — reminding us all that his voters aren’t showing up in polls because his voters aren’t the people being called to take part in polls, because pollsters wouldn’t view them as likely to vote.
“And when I get them to vote,” Street said, “then all your pollsters and your pundits are going to be side-swiped. They won’t know what happened.”
Also this week, Street was the recipient of a tough question from WHYY’s Dave Davies during the Next Mayor Debate, when he was pressed on his criminal background and whether or not the city can trust him to be mayor. An argument ensued, and Street staunchly defended himself. You can read more about that here.
The biggest news this week for Williams came last night when The Inquirer reported American Cities, a PAC supporting Williams, made a massive last-minute ad buy worth nearly a million bucks. That spending could set a single-candidate record and it means you won’t be able to turn on your TV to watch
The Phillies Wheel of Fortune without seeing an ad. More later under “Show me the money.”
Williams’ name was all over the news this week, mostly for the huge gamble he took in publicly declaring that he’d oust Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey if he’s elected. Why? He’s vowing to end stop-and-frisk, and clearly thinks he can’t do that without giving Ramsey the ol’ boot. More on that later.
A few other things with Williams this week: His campaign launched the first negative ad of the campaign, slamming Jim Kenney for words he said nearly 20 years ago about policing. Here’s the ad:
In addition, Williams this week garnered the endorsement of the city’s largest newspaper The Inquirer which, even though there was some controversy there (more on that later), it’s still meaningful — Williams’ team gets that still-powerful logo on its commercials and its direct-mailers.
For months, education has been identified as the issue that could make or break a mayoral campaign. And while we’re sure it’s still the issue that weighs heavily on the minds of this city’s voters, no issue has captivated the nation and divided it like the ones that have to do with race, policing and brutality.
As we said before, Williams waded into that this week. Hard. His declaration that Charles Ramsey is out if he’s in (and subsequent shade from Mayor Nutter) was surprising in that it was a *huge* gamble. With less than two weeks until the election, Williams effectively turned away anyone who supports Ramsey — one of the most popular un-elected officials in Philadelphia.
This Ramsey hate from Williams is a new flip-flop. He told The Daily News’ David Gambacorta several months back that “Charles Ramsey has been an effective commissioner and if I were elected, the decision to stay with the department would be up to him.”
Philly Mag‘s Holly Otterbein made a great point about the move, writing this week that “either Williams’ campaign has polling showing that Ramsey is less popular than he was at the beginning of 2015, or Williams just made a huge mistake.”
Will it be enough to swing momentum his way? Only time will tell.
Who messed up
No one even cared about the last mayoral debate run by 6ABC this week. After a kinda feisty one on Monday when Jim Kenney and Tony Williams sparred about police reform, everyone thought the last one was going to be juicy. Not so.
Philly Mag points out that Williams missed an opportunity during the debate to slam Kenney, adding that it was “mostly a polite discussion.” Williams could have used a televised boost above Kenney, and he didn’t seize the opportunity.
Show me the money
Here comes the last-minute ad push, and it’s a doozy, you guys.
Like I mentioned earlier, a PAC supporting Williams has reportedly taken out $900K worth of pro-Williams ads (or maybe anti-Kenney ads) that will run in the last week of the campaign. The commercials are expected to dominate media, and could change how the public feels about Team Tony in a big way.
“We’ve never seen anything like that,” an advertising executive told The Inky. “A half million dollars a week, $600,000 a week, yeah, but not $900,000 a week.”
The huge ad buy brings the PAC American Cities’ contributions to Williams to more than $5 million, far outpacing spending by any other group or candidate. Dayum.
Obviously, this was more a matter of unfortunate sentence construction than anything else. But still, lol. Williams has a thing about school kids, apparently…
Insult of the week
When Jim Kenney brought up Selma during the Next Mayor debate, saying that it’s important police officers know their civil rights history, Tony Williams went HAM and started passionately telling the audience that, “That is insulting to a generation who knows the significance of Selma.”
Then he threw some shade at Kenney’s highlight pot decriminalization bill saying, “this is not about some kid smoking weed who has to go to work on Monday, who has to pee in a cup and then get fired. This is about the truth. The truth is, we need to take action, not talk about it.”
What people are pissed about
Everyone’s mad at The Inquirer. It started on Saturday, when the Inky released a lukewarm editorial endorsing Tony Williams, a candidate whose stances the paper’s editorial board has oft disagreed with.
First, the paper caught some flak for failing to disclose in the editorial that the paper’s owner H.F. Gerry Lenfest donated to Williams’ PAC. Then, Newsworks reported that the Inquirer’s editorial board actually voted to endorse Jim Kenney, but they were overruled. Editor Bill Marimow told Newsworks that it was he, not Lenfest, who made the final call to endorse Williams.
Since then, groups support Kenney (there are a lot) have formally asked the Inquirer to retract its endorsement editorial. No such retraction has occurred (or likely will occur). But, the newspaper’s editorial page editor released a column Thursday deriding Williams’ campaign as “rudderless” and basically just hating all over him. Hmmm.
Wanna get to know your mayoral frontrunner? Inquirer writer Chris Hepp talked to some of Jim Kenney’s closest confidantes, who tell stories of Kenney spray-painting graffiti as a kid and turning into a passionate, loyal politician. Check it out here.
You can’t “stretch a net across the sky, catch meteorites and sell sky rocks.”
Thank you, Milton Street. You, in fact, cannot do that. Street said those words this week during a debate when he was trying to get across the point that all the candidates’ ideas are far-fetched and overly-optimistic.
If you missed this tweet about the race so far, make sure you check it out. It’s the “Are We There Yet?” illustration that’ll make your day.