The Mayoral Race Gets Weird — Real Weird

Tony Williams touts a poll that doesn't exist, then says Jim Kenney also would sack Police Commissioner Ramsey.

Senator Anthony Hardy Williams at today's press conference | Photo: James Jennings

Senator Anthony Hardy Williams at today’s press conference | Photo: James Jennings

The mayoral race is getting weird in its final days.

Case in point, mayoral candidate Anthony Hardy Williams scheduled a press conference today outside of Estia, a Center City restaurant on a busy street near Broad and Locust, where he talked about polling, was interrupted by pro-Kenney protesters and said Kenney’s view on Police Commission Charles Ramsey “mirrors” his own. Williams, you’ll recall, has said Ramsey needs to go — a position that’s caused him no end of trouble. Let’s get right to it.

Needless to say, Williams needs to make a push. A joint poll from The Inquirer and NBC10 was released this week, which shows Jim Kenney with a commanding 27-point lead over Williams.

We say weird because the press release for the event referenced a seemingly new “Franklin & Marshall Primary Poll.” “We look forward to setting the record straight about where we stand in this race and why we anticipate a very close, hard-fought contest on Election Day,” Sen. Williams said in the release.

This announcement caused confusion from the get-go. Was there a poll? Terry Madonna, Director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College confirmed with Citified’s Holly Otterbein that he wasn’t doing a poll until June. What poll would Williams be talking about at this mid-afternoon press conference?

Williams, flanked by a diverse group of newly announced millennial supporters and ethnic leaders, stood amongst the din of Locust Street to make it known that he doesn’t really need official polls. He has the “human polling” on his side and lambasted Kenney for needing “ambassadors” to show him to various neighborhoods.

Here’s what Williams said about the “issue of polling”:

“I want to say to you that I respect that people have the craft and there’s a science to it and there’s a perspective to be provided as a snapshot. That said: the pollsters will also tell you that it is a snapshot—not a guarantee and we have spent time with voters across the city of Philadelphia. So, today I’m talking about the human polling that we’re doing, the human data, if you will.”

When asked about his internal polling, Williams said that the information that they have makes the race “competitive.”

Williams was getting warmed up. Philadelphians, he said, “don’t want another administration that doesn’t really reflect change. They certainly don’t want an administration that is a Doc/Kenney administration, which moves us backwards ” Doc being John Dougherty, the powerful and controversial boss of the Electricians union, who is supporting Kenney.

But the very public sidewalk made gave pro-Kenney protesters a chance to have their say. Reps from a group called Action United were handing out fliers prior to the event and even raucously interrupted Williams during his speech. Williams shrugged it off, saying, “there’s not a volunteer over there. They’re all paid for, and bought, by people who take us backwards.”

Even more confusion settled in as Williams got on a roll near the end of his speech and said, “And finally, [Kenney’s] record about what he said with regard to the Police Commissioner [Charles Ramsey] will be revealed today, which mirrors mine.”

When asked to clarify his statement about Councilman Kenney’s position on Ramsey, Williams asked for the statement from his team to read out loud. The only problem: no one had it. “Do we have it?” asked Williams. “I don’t have it right on me,” replied Barbara Grant, spokeswoman for the campaign.

After trying his best to control the misstep, Williams asked Barbara, “How long ago did he make the comment?” Grant simply stated, “Very early on in the campaign at one of the first forums.”

When pressed for some sort of answer, Williams eventually replied, “He said, in effect, that he would desire to find somebody within the department he thought could ably handle being commissioner, but I apologize. I thought the statement was here. I didn’t realize the statement wasn’t here. And so, we need to make sure we have your emails so we can get it back to you. So it is accurate. I want to make sure it is accurate”

For what it’s worth, the Williams team sent out the following statement made by Jim Kenney on replacing Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey at the Northwest Charter School Forum on February 28:

Who would you like to be your police commissioner, would you look within the city or go outside?

Kenney: Well, um, I have an idea of who I would select.  I’m not going to give you that name right now because I think it’s unfair to the person because they’re currently doing a job they’re, but I see no need in the Philadelphia police department to go outside and look for someone outside Philadelphia, I think the command structure, I think Chuck Ramsey has done a fabulous job, uh, but I do think there are people just under him that are awesome, who I work with on the regular basis and I’m not going to go outside Philadelphia police department to find our next commissioner.

Williams wanted to point out “his statement precedes my statement” and said, it shouldn’t come “as a shock” that Kenney may have flip-flopped on his position. Williams said he also holds Ramsey in “high regard.”

Kenney’s team later released a statement as well:

Jim has always praised Commissioner Ramsey’s leadership and repeatedly stated that if the Commissioner’s national profile didn’t take him elsewhere that Jim would welcome him in his administration. Senator Williams is simply making a last ditch effort to recover from the fall-out of attacking one of the most popular men in Philadelphia.