Q&A: Darrell Clarke Talks About His Decision to Not Run for Mayor

A man of few words says a few words.

Photo courtesy of City Council.

Photo courtesy of City Council.

Council President Darrell Clarke finally made official today what many political insiders have predicted all along: He will not be running for mayor. Instead, he’ll seek reelection in City Council. Clarke did not hold a press conference about the news, so we caught up with him over the phone Monday afternoon. He was his usual pithy self.

Citified: Why did you decide to not run for mayor?

Clarke: What I decided to do is run for reelection for Council. People asked me to consider running for mayor.

From my perspective, this has been one of the best City Councils in the history of the city of Philadelphia in terms of productivity, in terms of the camaraderie. We tend to get unanimous votes or close to unanimous votes, and working with this group of elected officials has been very satisfying. Just look at the number of things that we’ve done on [real estate tax delinquency, the land bank, paid sick leave and affordable housing].

The question is, why wouldn’t I run for Council again?

Citified: Will you be supporting another candidate for mayor?

Clarke: The only thing I’ll be focusing on at this time is the reelection of other members of Council.

Citified: A lot of people feel that by waiting until January to announce that you weren’t running for mayor, you froze two potential candidates, City Controller Alan Butkovitz and Councilman James Kenney, out of the field.

Clarke: [Butkovitz] was not frozen out of any field. He made a decision that he could not put the necessary mechanisms in place to run, and it had nothing to do with me. [Kenney’s] decision had nothing to do with me.

Citified: What has it been like for you personally to be asked to run for mayor, and to have to make a decision about it?

Clarke: Flattering. The broad nature of people who had expressed an interest in me running for mayor, it was quite significant.

Citified: What are your future plans for Council?

Clarke: Unfortunately, the annual school district crisis will be before us relatively soon, and we’ll hopefully have a much better response from Harrisburg as a result of the new governor.

We have a number of initiatives that we’ll be working on. We’ll be rolling out a housing initiative shortly. We have a community sustainability initiative. Shortly we’ll be pivoting toward the energy hub. We got a number of interesting recommendations that have come to us in terms of enhancing our position around energy.

We have an income inequality initiative — increasing the minimum wage, paid sick leave, talking about creating more jobs for low-income people. We’re going to be focusing on community-based schooling, wrap-around, family-based services.

Citified: Most of the city’s labor leaders saw you as their No. 1 choice for mayor. Now that you’re not running, does that hurt labor’s chances at having a voice in this year’s mayoral race?

Clarke: I learned a long time ago to not answer other people’s questions, and that is clearly a question for labor.