The Brief: Jim Kenney’s Authenticity Cuts Two Ways
Jim Kenney seems sure to dominate the mayoral news again today. Ditto for Thursday, when he will no doubt make a memorable final speech from the floor of City Council before resigning from the job he’s held for 23 years. Expect tears. Expect rough eloquence. Expect an abundance of highly quotable moments.
More than any other figure on the city’s political stage today, Kenney knows how to command a moment. It’s a real talent, one that he’ll surely lean on often in his looming mayoral run. As a political brand, authenticity often works, particularly in a city like Philadelphia (just ask Lynne Abraham, another candidate who is staking a lot on the bet that voters know and love the true Lynne).
But Kenney is awfully authentic. And it’s not just his Twitter feed. See the clip of the council transcript above, which Frank Iannuzzi highlighted on Facebook. Or see this article from PlanPhilly’s Jared Brey about the time Kenney read the ingredients of a Primo Hoagie into the Council record. Sure, this sort of stuff is endearing. Voters feel closer to candidates who worry about their blood pressure, who vent on Twitter, who think it’s worth noting, on the floor of council, that Primo’s newest hoagie includes (shocker!) hot Sopressata.
Actual authenticity is altogether different than cultivated authenticity. Kenney seems to possess the former. Some other pols with similarly authentic images (cough, Ed Rendell, cough) have been just a bit better at keeping that authenticity in check.
Genuine political authenticity is a high-risk, high-reward attribute. Candidates who go out on the campaign trail and act like normal people can be prone to saying things that offend large swathes of the electorate. Not all voters will pull the lever for the candidate they would most like to drink a beer with. Kenney’s foes will plumb his record for stupid statements (and they are sure to strike gold), and he seems likely to give them at least a few gifts during the course of the campaign. He can’t help it; which is both his strength and his weakness.
The press, Citified included, is going to be all over a Kenney candidacy, because it will be interesting and honest and controversial. But while those attributes generate interest, it’s not automatic that they’ll generate a lot of votes.
- The iconic Spruce Food Market building (it’s actually a parking garage, except at ground level) has sold for about $7.2 million. Half of Citified’s staff had their wedding engagement photos taken there, and it could mean war if that market goes down. You’ve been warned.
- Gov. Wolf is ready and willing to sign a medical marijuana bill, if it reaches his desk.
— Mark Nevins (@NevinsMark) January 27, 2015
— Albert Lee (@urphillypal) January 28, 2015
Many thanks to @JimFKenney for fighting for improved lang. access, human & civil rights, responsible policing, and ending ICE holds.
— Helen Gym (@HelenGym2015) January 28, 2015
That’s not a Helen Gym endorsement of Kenney per se, but it’s still interesting.