Five Ways Jim Kenney Will Upend the Mayoral Race

It's a whole new game.

On the way where? Photo Credit: City Council Flickr page.

On the way where? Photo Credit: City Council Flickr page.

The imminent entry of Jim Kenney into the mayoral race will upend the contest.

The race will be more fun, and potentially more substantive as well. As you may have gathered, Kenney can be awfully entertaining. I expect him to be a pugnacious, humorous candidate. He’ll take shots and start some fights and make himself impossible to ignore. This race could use that sort of catalyst about now. Kenney’s also not afraid of policy. He may just force the field to, at last, grapple with ideas and issues.

It’s great news for Anthony Williams. Probably. Stop us if you’ve heard this before. When Lynne Abraham got into the race, it was good news for Williams. When City Council President Darrell Clarke chose to stay out of the race, it was good news for Williams. When Ken Trujillo got out, it was good news for Williams. And now Kenney getting in is probably good news for Williams as well. That speaks to just how good the fundamentals of this race have been for Team Williams all along. Kenney’s entry means that Williams now has two prominent white opponents in the race. Voters don’t always vote along racial lines, but they often do. If Kenney and Abraham end up splitting the white vote, the racial math looks awfully solid for Williams.

Lynne Abraham’s chances have dimmed considerably. It’s not just the racial math. Before Kenney got in the race, Abraham was the only candidate with A-list level charisma and presence. Now she’s got an opponent who is just as authentic and quintessentially Philly as she is. Plus, Kenney will go toe-to-toe with Abraham in old-school white rowhome neighborhoods.

Sam Katz will almost certainly sit out the Democratic primary now. It just doesn’t make sense for Katz to enter a race that already features two prominent white candidates. Katz could still well run as an Independent in the fall election. And even if Kenney loses the primary, his presence in the race could help Katz, inasmuch as Williams might emerge from the primary more bloodied and cash-poor than he would been have without Kenney in the race.

The mayoral field may be set. There’s still vague chatter about other candidates, but Kenney’s entrance–and the inexorable march of time–may well mean that this mayoral field is final (we’re already counting Doug Oliver and Milton Street as candidates, even though they’ve not yet officially declared). Kenney isn’t labor’s perfect candidate, but he’ll satisfy enough of labor to close off the hopes of other labor-backed pols (like Alan Butkovitz). Ditto for progressives. One constituency that seems lack a top-tier candidate is big business (some elements of which had been leaning toward Trujillo). There could be an opening there still for the right candidate, but the window is almost entirely shut.