POLS ON THE STREET: 2019 or 2023: When Best to Run for Mayor?

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ALL ACROSS Philadelphia, activists are seeking imaginative ways to attract voters to events where candidates for office in the spring primary – as many as 100, perhaps – can circulate their nominating petitions. In a twist, six Democratic wards in North, Northeast and Northwest Philly combined polling with bowling. Photo by Harry Leech

The current lineup is that two credible Democrats are exploring a primary challenge to incumbent Mayor Jim Kenney: Northeast Ward Leader and former City Controller Alan Butkovitz, and State Sen. Anthony Williams (D-W. Phila.).

Both have long been interested in this job; both believe they are qualified to do it; and both are right. Both are circulating petitions, although they don’t have to commit to going all in for another month or so.

But can they beat an incumbent – in either a three-way race or a two-3way race? That’s the math they are puzzling over now.

A PHALANX of illustrious names turned out for Councilman Derek Green’s re-election effort, among them Mayor Jim Kenney. Green is regarded as a keen business head on Council. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Incumbents have huge advantages. Typically, they must either preside over an economic downturn or a personal indictment to be booted out of office. Neither of these is Kenney’s problem at this hour.

A lot of money may be allied against him, both big and small. The beverage industry hates his Sweetened Drinks Tax, as do innumerable mom-&-pop convenience stores. And a lot of ordinary soda-drinkers who don’t often delve into public policy probably can be persuaded to protest against the rising cost of the bottle in their hand.

Insiders, however, still struggle to see a path forward for two challengers in a three-way race. That’s because Butkovitz and Williams share most views, as practical managers with business sense. More likely is that one drops out for 2019, perhaps to pursue 2023, when there will be no incumbent in the Mayor’s Office.

Which would that be? Only mind-readers know. But age is a factor. In 2023, Williams will be 66, Butkovitz 69. Obviously, in an age when America is debating how many septuagenarians are worthy of running the country, no one can reject either gentleman in 2023.

L-R AT STATE REP. Jim Roebuck’s Birthday Bash were David Wilson, Drexel VP; Hon. Delores Butler; Roebuck; and Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell. Photo by Bonnie Squires

Still, Butkovitz’s move looks timelier. Unlike Williams, he does not currently hold office. So his name recognition will fade if he does not put himself out there now. Williams has more options, although he too may want to do some marketing this season to bolster a down-the-line campaign.

Whither Domb? Is He Eyeing Future Run?
Councilman Allan Domb (at Large) has decisively taken himself out of the mayoral race, opting instead to go for re-election to City Council.

In so doing, however, he pointedly hinted that he is happy to move to another, presumably higher, City office four years from now. Hmm, what could that be?

Domb just introduced a bill to impose term limits on City Council members. It will be welcomed by his colleagues rather like snow in July. But that’s not the point. Domb is positioning himself as an anti-establishment reformer. That could appeal to many voters in the next cycle, if the city’s Democratic politics sees continued turnover.

FAR NORTHEAST Democratic wards held a packed campaign party at Ashburner Inn. Among attendees were, L-R, Northeast native son Dan Sulman, who is running to return to Common Pleas Court; Councilman & Ward Leader Bobby Henon; Ward Leaders Janice Sulman, Shawn Dillon, Brian Eddis; John Donahoe; and judicial candidate George Twardy. Photo by Harry Leech

Domb also introduced a resolution calling on the General Assembly and governor to recognize the efforts of Pittsburgh City Councilmembers to protect citizens from acts of gun violence following the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue.

“As Philadelphia City Council, we must stand up and support the work of our colleagues in Pittsburgh as they work to protect citizens from gun violence,” said Domb. “Acts of hate and violence should never be tolerated and as leaders we must implement common sense measures to safeguard people.”

The councilman’s resolution received support from all Democratic members of City Council, with a large majority co-sponsoring the resolution. But it doubtless mattered personally to Domb.

“We want to thank Councilman Domb for his leadership, and further thank him and his colleagues on Philadelphia City Council for their support as we stand up to confront this senseless violence,” said Pittsburgh City Councilmembers Corey O’Connor and Erika Strassburger. “We can — and will — win this fight together.”

Karla Cruel Seeks an Edge in the 4th

KARLA CRUEL wants to listen to the people of the 4th Councilmanic District before she dictates.

The cavalcade of challengers in Democratic district councilmanic races continues. At least three opponents are testing the waters in the 4t h District, which includes West Philadelphia from Overbrook to Wynnefield and Northwest Philadelphia’s East Falls and Roxborough neighborhoods. They will be up against well-established incumbent Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., who is seeking a fourth term.

One of them, attorney Karla Cruel of Wynnefield Heights, believes she has the insight to knit together the concerns of diverse and disconnected communities. “I was born here,” she said. My father lived in Roxborough, which is thriving but where parking is an acute problem. My mother lives in Haddonfield, where neighborhood businesses are withering and jobs are scarce. I know both worlds.”

WALL-TO-WALL people were in attendance at the Meet and Greet reception for City Commissioner Al Schmidt in the Gray Lodge on Frankford Avenue. Schmidt, C, is flanked by Chris Vogler, Vice Chair of GOP City Committee, and Philip Innamorato, aide to U.S. Sen. Patrick Toomey. Photos by Joe Stivala

A graduate of Girls’ High School and Drexel University, where she ultimately got a law degree, her first career was as a teacher. A transformative experience came when she took a teaching job in Japan. There she encountered an urban society where none of Philadelphia’s problems applied. Everything worked. Poverty and crime were low. People were friendly. The city administration was trusted.

Why can’t we Americans live like this? she asked herself. This vision, of a society where things get fixed and things get done cooperatively, drives her still today.

After entering the law, Cruel built a track record in tenants’-rights work with the Tenant Union Representative Network – an issue that resonates in many parts of her district. She is now in private practice.

THE 42ND, 49TH AND 61ST Wards held a gala candidates night in Majestic Hall on Olney Avenue in Logan, Candidates moved among the strong turnout, introducing themselves to live music and good food. Donna Aument, Leader of the 33rd Ward, R, is welcomed by hosts Shirley Gregory, leader of the 49th Ward; Sharon Vaughn, 42nd; and “Big Pete” Lyde, 61st. Photo by Joe Stivala

Cruel’s first goal is to redo community outreach in the 4th District. Her specialty is to listen first, to as many people as possible – something the district is lacking, she said. Her next contribution would be to inspire. “I can move a large crowd,” she said.

Or a small crowd. She has been working barbershops across the district.

In a four-way race, the incumbent is usually favored. But if some of Cruel’s fellow challengers don’t make their signature numbers, that could open a door for a survivor. The 4th District is not a geographical natural. It has two wings with few normal connections: only three bridges cross the Schuylkill. So an incumbent must work extra hard to remain visible and accessible throughout it, and a savvy challenger can always exploit pockets that feel neglected.

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