Piling on Anthony Williams
Until today, Philadelphia’s mayoral race seemed to be missing something: good old-fashioned mudslinging.
That all changed when former City Councilman Jim Kenney and former Judge Nelson Diaz issued press releases slamming state Sen. Anthony Williams. Until now, no candidate had come out strongly against Williams — the top fundraiser in the race — or anyone, really. The only other notable mudslinging, aimed at former District Attorney Lynne Abraham, was by a candidate who has since withdrawn.
Team Kenney attacked Williams over schools. Lauren Hitt, a spokeswoman for Kenney, said in a statement that Williams is a “single-issue candidate driven by the contributions from anonymous billionaires more concerned with making a profit than a quality school. The Senator is supported by no fewer than four PACs with either implicit or explicit education privatization missions.” This comes after Kenney said last week that the district should not accept a $35 million offer from a nonprofit to expand charters.
Diaz, meanwhile, said, “In this campaign, we’ve seen Senator Williams find new and creative ways to flout our campaign finance laws.” He also took a shot at Kenney, saying he “holds a second job working for a company doing big business with the city, the details of which he refuses to reveal — all while taking city and state pensions to fund his run for office.”
Why is this worth noting? A few reasons. One, it suggests the mayoral campaign season is finally, finally underway.
Two, it implies that Kenney is making a play for supporters of traditional public education. Since Ken Trujillo dropped out of the race, there hasn’t been a clear candidate for that camp. Diaz may also pitch himself as the guy for traditional ed.
Being that guy, of course, comes with potential benefits, such as financial and organizational support the from Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. It could also possibly bring the fruits of independent expenditures. But is it a winning strategy? It may depend on how the candidates frame charter schools in the debate over public education. A 2013 poll by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that 64 percent of respondents in Philadelphia said charters “improve education options and help keep middle-class families in the city” and only 26 percent said they “take too much money away from the public schools and lack sufficient oversight.”
Check out the full statement from Kenney’s campaign:
Statement on Williams’ Support for PSP “Gift”
PHILADELPHIA – Kenney 2015 Communications Director Lauren Hitt released the following statement today on State Senator Anthony Williams’ support for the $25 million the Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) raised from unknown donors in order to persuade the School Reform Commission to consider new charter school applications.
“Over the last week, it has become increasingly clear that State Senator Williams is a single-issue candidate driven by the contributions from anonymous billionaires more concerned with making a profit than a quality school. The Senator is supported by no fewer than four PACs with either implicit or explicit education privatization missions. And, on the same day it was revealed that Williams accepted $7,000 from a PAC associated with PSP, the Senator came out in support of PSP’s $25 million ‘gift,’ which has almost as many strings attached as these pro-voucher billionaires have attached to Anthony Williams himself. As Mayor, Jim Kenney will stand up to special interests and put our students and parents first.”
And here’s the statement from Diaz:
Diaz embraces Committee of Seventy’s Integrity Agenda, chides Kenney and Williams for major ethical lapses
Judge Nelson Diaz embraced the proposed ethics reforms released yesterday by the Committee of Seventy as “a good place to start the conversation and a positive first step towards a more ethical city government.” At the same time, Judge Diaz pointed out that at least two of his opponents – former Councilman Jim Kenney and Senator Anthony Williams – are currently falling well short of the standards the Committee of Seventy is calling for.
“I thank the Committee of Seventy for their thoughtful proposal – particularly obvious fixes like strong whistleblower protections, disclosure of outside income and conflicts of interests, and greater transparency for the dark money seeking to subvert our democracy,” said Diaz.
“Recent events have driven home the urgency of ethics reform. In this campaign, we’ve seen Senator Williams find new and creative ways to flout our campaign finance laws. Meanwhile, Councilman Kenney holds a second job working for a company doing big business with the city, the details of which he refuses to reveal – all while taking city and state pensions to fund his run for office that will potentially allow him to “double-dip” if elected. That kind of self-serving politics isn’t worthy of Philadelphia, but it is unfortunately business as usual for these career politicians,” Diaz concluded.