4 Reasons to Watch Tonight’s NBC 10 Mayoral Debate

Expect Lynne Abraham to be ready to rumble.

Mayoral Candidates Six Grid

Tonight at 7 p.m., NBC 10 will air the first of three televised Philadelphia mayoral debates. It’s kind of a big deal.

Here’s why.

  1. It’s a huge night for Lynne Abraham. Unlike her chief rivals, Jim Kenney and Anthony Williams, Abraham doesn’t have deep-pocketed Super PAC allies who will blanket the airwaves. Tonight’s debate, then, represents one of her very few chances to connect with a mass audience. A poll leaked to the Inquirer from a pro-Kenney Super PAC this weekend showed Abraham’s support crumbling and Kenney and Williams rising fast, just as Super PAC-funded Kenney and Williams TV ads started to air in bunches. Abraham—who still has a huge name recognition advantage over her foes—needs to change the race’s dynamic soon if she’s going to win this thing. Don’t be surprised if Abraham goes on the offensive in a big way this evening.
  2. For similar reasons, tonight’s debate is a high stakes event for Nelson Diaz and Doug Oliver. Despite his impressive resume and a substantive campaign, Diaz has been unable to break out of the second tier of candidates. Diaz has been an uneven performer at the many assorted community mayoral forums, and he’ll need to do better (and perhaps turn down the volume on his delivery) tonight to have a chance of cracking into the first tier. Oliver, on the other hand, usually performs very well in these settings. His problem is that he’s got no money, and introducing himself to 150 voters per night isn’t a mathematically viable path to victory. Oliver’s job tonight is to impress a mass audience in the same way he has impressed small forum audiences. If he gets people thinking: “hey, this guy is interesting,” he’ll have done his job.
  3. I’d wager that Tony Williams and Jim Kenney will approach tonight’s debate cautiously. Both appear to be rising in the polls. Both will be on television a lot in the next six weeks. Both can feel OK about the trajectory of the campaign right now; Kenney because he’s been picking up endorsements by the bushel and making major inroads with black voters; Williams because he continues to enjoy big advantages like ultra-deep pocketed Super PAC support and two high-profile white rivals who could split white voters. Williams and Kenney need to present themselves as plausible mayors. They don’t need to bury their opponents. Not tonight.
  4. Milton Street… Well, it will be interesting to see how Street’s debate shtick—which includes a lot of borderline shouting and audience interaction—will play on TV and in a tightly controlled room full of attendees who paid $70 apiece to be there (spoiler: it won’t play well at all). It’ll be equally interesting to see how the moderator—NBC 10’s Jim Rosenfield—will handle Street. Is he going to get as much talk time as, say, Williams? And if he doesn’t, how will he respond?

We’ll cover the Philadelphia mayoral debate live on Twitter @CitifiedPHL and score the winners and losers tonight.