by Mike McLeod
As the general election looms later this year, the race to replace Mayor Nutter is heating up. With all of the petitions filed and the primaries scheduled for May, we have reached the period where candidates are trying to get their names out there and are clamoring for public support and endorsements in hopes that, on Nov. 3, they will hear their name called as the next Mayor of Philadelphia.
Most important now is the looming May 19 primary, the Democratic winner of which is nearly a lock to win the general election. Registration for the primary must be complete by April 20. See seventy.org for more information.
A batch of candidates have been coming and going, but it seems that seven – six Democrats and a lone Republican – have officially filed their petitions and announced their candidacy. You may know some of these names, but chances are there are a few that you don’t. This list is intended to introduce the candidates in the primaries – though others may join the race as Independents as we move closer to the election – and give you some surface information to guide you when you begin to learn more about the candidates before reaching the polls.
Lynne Abraham, Democrat: Abraham was the first woman to serve as District Attorney of Philadelphia, a position she held from 1991 to 2010. The native Philadelphian graduated from Germantown High School in 1958. After receiving a law degree from Temple University, Abraham served as the executive director of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority and was a judge in both Municipal Court and the Court of Common Pleas. She was elected District of Attorney of Philadelphia in 1991 and served until 2010.
“America’s Deadliest DA” hasn’t been very active so far, but has been in the news recently for reversing her opinion on the decriminalization of pot in the city (she now supports it), a topic of contention across the country. She also has urged candidates to reject “dark” money, or support from third-party groups that endorse their campaigns, and to donate an equal amount to the public school system. At this time, all of the other five Democratic candidates have refused to do so, on grounds that the donations would cripple their campaign fundraising efforts.
James Kenney, Democrat: At this point in the race, it seems the longtime city councilman has a leg up on his Democratic competition. A lifelong South Philadelphian, Kenney has been an at-large city councilman since 1992, making him well known in the city.
He has received major endorsements, notably from the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, and his presence on Twitter has made him a favorite for younger Philadelphians. He has been involved in advocacy for the environment and equality, as well as being a proponent of the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, likely adding to his popularity for millennials.
Doug Oliver, Democrat: Oliver brings a young face to the Democratic race for mayor. At 40, Oliver has spent most of his career in the public eye as a spokesman for Mayor Nutter and a frequent face of the Philadelphia Gas Works, where he was a Senior VP and was featured in commercials.
After receiving backlash for his role at PGW, Oliver quit his job to focus on the race. His campaign plans to focus on schools and securing jobs for the city, and he will be an interesting candidate to watch given his oratory skills and comfort on-camera. He currently lives in East Oak Lane with his 12-year-old son.
Anthony Hardy Williams, Democrat: Williams is a longtime state legislator. He was inspired by the MOVE bombing in West Philadelphia to run for office. He was elected to the State House of Representatives in 1988 and the State Senate in 1998. He is currently the State Senate’s minority whip and is the leader of the Democratic Committee of the city’s Third Ward.
Williams has gained a lot of support early on in the race. He has secured endorsements from many blue-collar union groups and has used his past to drum up a formidable following. He has leaned on his successes in the past in lowering crime and his familiarity with the Philadelphia public school systems as pillars of his campaign. He has shown an ability to fundraise, holding the cash lead on his fellow candidates. His support of charter schools could play a factor in his popularity, as the improvement of public schools will be a sticking point for many voters throughout the city.
Nelson A. Diaz, Democrat: Chestnut Hill resident Nelson Diaz was the first person of Puerto Rican descent to earn a law degree from Temple when he did so in 1972. He served as City Solicitor from 2001 to 2004 and was a judge on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
Diaz will be looking to get the city’s Latino voters to the polls for the primary. He has an impressive resume to help, being the first Latino to pass the Pennsylvania bar exam, having been a confirmed general counsel for the U.S. Senate, and was one of the first to serve in the White House. His focus on public education will also help gain support for the former judge, but there are questions about his time away from the public sector when he spent time in corporate law.
Milton Street, Democrat: Street’s candidacy in 2015, like those in 2007 and 2011, have been viewed by some as a stunt to stay relevant. After serving three years in prison for failing to pay $3 million in taxes, he actually gained 24 percent of the vote in the 2011 primary, encouraging his campaign in 2015. He has not been very active yet, and has yet to secure any endorsements or support, leading many to believe his campaign will be more of a fizzle than a flame. Street may face a challenge from other candidates because he is apparently still registered as an Independent.
Melissa Murray Bailey, Republican: The Republican Party is murky in the mayoral race. There were many names thrown around as potential candidates, but they either declined to run, changed over to Democratic registration, or may choose to run without an affiliation. This leaves Bailey, a businesswoman who just recently changed to a Republican registration before filing for the primary. She will look to use her business acumen to appeal to those who want to see progress in the city’s financial realm, but her lack of political experience is sure to be a hindrance to her campaign.
With an 8-1 deficit in terms of voter registration in the city, any politician with a Republican affiliation is facing an uphill battle to get into office, but Bailey believes she will be a capable mayoral candidate.