What to Expect at the 2019 Mayoral Primary’s Only Televised Debate

Incumbent Jim Kenney squares off against challengers Anthony Williams and Alan Butkovitz on Monday night on NBC10 and Telemundo 62.

mayoral debate race

From right to left: Mayor Jim Kenney (by Jeff Fusco); Alan Butkovitz (by Curtis Blessing); Anthony Williams (by Jeff Fusco)

Your sole chance to watch Philadelphia’s three Democratic mayoral candidates face off on the small screen is almost here.

Mayor Jim Kenney and his challengers, state Sen. Anthony Williams and former City Controller Alan Butkovitz, will take part in the only televised debate of the mayoral primary on Monday evening. NBC10 and Telemundo 62 will host the invitation-only event, which will be held at the Comcast Technology Center in Center City. It will be broadcast live at 7 p.m.

NBC10 anchor Jim Rosenfield will moderate, and Sandra Shea and Iris Delgado of the Inquirer and Telemundo 62 will be panelists. If you can’t watch the debate live, you’ll be able to stream it afterward on NBC10.com and Telemundo62.com (in Spanish).

The event offers Williams and Butkovitz a rare chance of debating Kenney directly as the May 21st primary nears. Thus far, the mayoral race has been relatively uneventful. Kenney has skipped several debates with Williams and Butkovitz, leaving the two challengers to rail against him in his absence. Last month, the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists held the only other debate that included all three Democratic candidates.

Kenney has both history and funding on his side: No incumbent mayor has lost a bid for reelection in seven decades. And he’s got far more in his campaign coffers than Williams and Butkovitz: Finance reports filed on May 6th stated that Kenney had $703,000 on hand, while Williams and Butkovitz reported having $49,000 and $51,000, respectively, as of April 11th. It’s also worth noting that outside groups — both in support of and in opposition to Kenney — are also pouring money into the race, including the anti–soda tax American Beverage Association.

The debate on Monday will likely focus several main topics. Presumably among them will be the rising homicide rate, which Williams has blamed on Kenney’s anti-crime tactics. The state senator has claimed would enact a state of emergency against of violence if elected. (It’s not the first time the duo will spar: Williams lost to Kenney in the 2015 Democratic primary, despite the fact that he had a lot more financial support back then.)

You can also expect the moderator and panelists to address Kenney’s signature accomplishment: the sweetened beverage tax. While many Philadelphians support the programs the levy funds (pre-K, recreation centers and parks, for example), a majority of residents oppose the tax itself, according to an Inquirer poll. That includes Williams and Butkovitz, who said they would repeal it. Neither candidate, however, has provided details regarding how they would tap sustainable funding sources for the programs the tax currently benefits.

Another probable topic includes stop-and-frisk, which Kenney campaigned on ending but now maintains is difficult to cease entirely. (Williams and Butkovitz say they would halt stop-and-frisk to varying degrees if elected; you can read more on their thoughts regarding the police tactic right here.) Candidates will also likely address safe injection sites, which, again, Kenney supports while Williams and Butkovitz oppose. Expect broader topics, like poverty, taxes, schools and more, to be raised as well.

Whoever wins the Democratic primary this month will face Republican challenger Billy Ciancaglini this fall.