What made Mayor Jim Kenney endorse Democratic state Rep. Dwight Evans’ bid for a congressional seat?
“The Second Congressional District needs Dwight’s guidance and enthusiasm,” Kenney told Billy Penn over the weekend in an exclusive interview with the duo. “Dwight is selfless. In all the years I have worked with him, he has never asked for anything for himself — it’s all been about neighborhood business strips, libraries and building up neighborhoods. That’s really what attracted me to him as a candidate.”
Notable in that endorsement of Evans is the absence of the member of the U.S. House of Representatives who’s been holding that second district for more than 20 years. That would be embattled incumbent U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, the indicted congressman who’s already been scolded by a judge for focusing more on his re-election than the charges he faces.
Fattah, who has less campaign funds than any of his challengers, is facing a stiff primary challenge from Evans and State Rep. Brian Sims. His trial on federal corruption charges is set to begin shortly after the primary.
Evans, who raised more than any of those lined up to challenge Fattah, got fierce flak from Philly’s politically-active black community after becoming one of the first black politicians to endorse Kenney over state Sen. Anthony Williams, an early, popular candidate in the Democratic mayoral primary. Some may see this endorsement as Kenney’s way of doing a solid for Evans.
During a pre-Super Bowl party at Relish on Ogontz Avenue, alongside Kenney, Evans dismissed that notion.
“Let the records speak for themselves. The mayor won the primary, and then won the general. I only have one vote,” Evans said. “Clearly at this particular point, the mayor knows all the people who are running and they all know him.
“This isn’t about being anti-anybody, but it’s about how we can move the city and second congressional district forward.”
Kenney, though, recognized the back-scratching appearance of these endorsements.
“This is a political position and politics play a role. You align yourself with people that have the same political philosophy,” Kenney said. “This is not about any other candidate. I made my decision based on my experience and desire to move the city forward, and I believe Dwight is the best candidate to do that.
“I’ve known Dwight for quite some time, and he has been in office for quite a long time and has a great track record,” Kenney said. “He is very much neighborhood oriented and reaches out to constituents, which is something I have done. Certainly, we’re going to have a good municipal-federal relationship, and grow the relationship we have now.”
Evans said that he and Kenney share the same vision of “going block by block” to improve the city, and said the two will focus on issues paramount to all Philadelphians.
“It’s about education and reducing gun violence,” said Evans, echoing Kenney’s sentiment regarding the building of relationships. “He brought together a coalition that wasn’t there before. His administration is reflective of one that is inclusive and diverse. I am happy to be a part of that.”
While both Kenney and Evans declined to address Fattah and the charges against him, the mayor did take a slight dig at the congressman by explaining his support for a challenger.
“He has experience in city and state government, has built relationships and is not a divisive figure,” Kenney added. “He is a builder of coalitions, and that is the biggest significant factor.”