The Brief: Right Now, Jim Kenney Is Winning This Election

And Doug Oliver is winning the 2023 mayoral primary. Plus, Sanchez is endorsed by four mayors and Philly's black community wrestles with a hard choice.

Jim Kenney and Doug Oliver. | Photo by Jeff Fusco.

Jim Kenney and Doug Oliver. | Photo by Jeff Fusco.

1. Kenney attacked, in debate and (potentially) on TV, and Doug Oliver generates the most poignant moment of the campaign.

The gist: Jim Kenney was again the top target at a mayoral debate, and the subject of a new attack ad launched by the Anthony Williams campaign (more on that ad later today).

Earlier, at a different mayoral forum organized by Ed Rendell, Doug Oliver asked an audience of schoolchildren for a show of hands: first, he wanted to know, who thinks of the police as friends? Second, he asked, who thinks the police are not your friends? Brian Hickey at Newsworks reports that fewer than five hands were raised in response to the first question; more than 60 to the second. Writes Hickey:

“Poignant,” is the word that former mayor and governor Ed Rendell used to describe it.

Oliver later said that it was a moment of “overwhelming sadness” for him.

Sensing that there might have been adult-intervention in crafting what seemed to be a loaded question, Oliver said he wanted to get a read on the life experiences of the fourth and fifth graders in the room.

“My assumption was that they didn’t [have personal experience with police brutality]. I didn’t want to poison the well, so I asked affirmatively. What I saw required the next question,” he told NinetyNine.

“When I saw all the hands, I almost lost my train of thought. If this is what you feel as fourth and fifth graders, we have a lot of work to do,” he continued. “There’s an overwhelming sadness that the seeds of bad relationships are already being planted and we have to get to work on this as early as the first grade. It’s not just the adults in the communities. These are bright kids with a positive worldview. Adults, we’re to blame for this.”

Why it matters: Internal polling from more than one source shows that Kenney is opening up a sizable lead in this race. But more telling that any poll is the behavior of the candidates. The fact that Kenney is being attacked by all sides strongly suggests that — at least at this moment — he has the lead, and perhaps a substantial one.

And Oliver’s string of strong performances continues. More than any candidate in the race, Oliver seems to be creating a reservoir of goodwill that, if he chooses to, he can draw on in the future.

2. Dems in Open Revolt Over Party’s Idiotic Handling of Manny Moralaes Challenge to Maria Quiñones-Sanchez.

The gist: According to the Sanchez campaign, Mayor Nutter and predecessors John Street, Ed Rendell and Bill Green will jointly endorse the two-term Seventh District Councilwoman Tuesday afternoon. This comes a week after Sanchez collected the endorsement of former councilman Danny Savage, who Sanchez beat back in 2007 (and again in 2011). They had been bitter foes. Sanchez is opposed this year by Manny Morales, the fringe candidate with the reprehensible Facebook feed. Despite the fact that Sanchez is arguably the most accomplished member of City Council, ward leaders in her district had endorsed Morales, and Bob Brady and the Democratic City Committee had gone along. It gets worse. Even after news of Morales’s racist Facebook postings broke, a group of potent ward leaders (who go by the name LUPE) stuck with the challenger — the ward leaders went so far as to withdraw their support from mayoral candidate Nelson Diaz (the city’s first Latino mayoral contender) when he refused to continue backing Morales.

Why it matters: Three reasons. One, the endorsements by the former mayors and Savage are a stinging rebuke not just to LUPE. but to Bob Brady for tolerating such irrational hatred of Sanchez for so many years. Sanchez is the only City Council incumbent not to automatically receive the backing of the Democratic party. Granted, she’s run her own candidates against Democratic incumbents, but only after the party made it clear she still wasn’t going to get committee support.

Second, it’s worth noting how effectively Sanchez has turned this entire episode on its head. Her campaign has made Morales a laughingstock. She’s impressed four mayors enough to get them onto the same stage (and remember, these guys hardly all love each other) to endorse her. That’s one hell of a photo op, not just for this campaign, but for future ones. Add up those mayoral endorsements, plus the support of Savage, and Sanchez has politically marginalized the ward leaders in her home district who’ve deeply resented her ever since she had the temerity to run for Council eight years ago.

Third, the mayoral endorsements are more evidence that Kenney really made the wrong call in accepting LUPE’s support at an event attended by Morales. Sanchez is backing Kenney rival Anthony Williams, so Kenney is hardly obligated to support her. But staying out of this brawl looks like a better call.

3. Debate continues in black community over question of supporting a white mayoral candidate.

The gist: On Saturday, City Council President Darrell Clarke walked the sidewalks of North Philly with Kenney at his side. The two were in shirtsleeves. It wasn’t an endorsement, but it was the next best thing. The very same day, former mayoral candidate and Street administration consigliere George Burrell wrote in the Philadelphia Tribune that “the Democratic primary for mayor has become a referendum on the state of black politics in Philadelphia.” The provocative op-ed continues:

Black voters seem to be wrestling with voting in the community’s best interest or making state Sen. Anthony Williams (D-Pa.) the symbol and victim of their frustration with Black elected officials. Many Blacks believe our elected officials have not delivered on the promise of an independent political movement that has elevated them to unprecedented positions of power over the last quarter century. Williams must override this frustration over the next three weeks and consolidate the Black vote as his prescription for victory, while his competitors pursue a strategy of divide and conquer.

Why it matters: Black voters will almost certainly decide this election. If they vote in large numbers for a black candidate — as black voters have strongly tended to do in Philadelphia — then Tony Williams probably wins. If they do not, the victor is likely Kenney. Right now, black political leadership is divided between the Williams and Kenney camps, and candidate polling suggests the black community is split as well. Will that dynamic hold through May 19? And if so, will a Kenney victory — combined with the white support Mayor Nutter received in 2007 — mean that the days where Philadelphia votes mostly along racial lines are over?

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