Mayoral candidates at Wednesday's Mt. Airy debate (from left): State Senator Anthony Hardy Williams, Doug Oliver and former City Solicitor, Nelson Diaz. (Photo by Sue Ann Rybak)

Mayoral candidates at Wednesday’s Mt. Airy debate (from left): State Senator Anthony Hardy Williams, Doug Oliver and former City Solicitor, Nelson Diaz. (Photo by Sue Ann Rybak)

by Sue Ann Rybak

With less than two weeks before the Democratic Primary on Tuesday, May 19, almost 100 residents gathered at the Lutheran Theological Seminary of Philadelphia, 7301 Germantown Ave. in Mt. Airy, on Wednesday night, May 6, for a chance to question the Democratic candidates running for mayor.

The community forum was sponsored by East Mt. Airy Neighbors and West Mt. Airy Neighbors and was held to give residents “an opportunity for concerned voters to move beyond scripted television ads” stated a press release.

Elayne Bender, executive director of East Mt. Airy Neighbors, said the organizations wanted to give residents an opportunity to voice their concerns and interact with candidates face to face.

Only four candidates: Nelson Diaz, ex-City Solicitor and former Common Pleas Court Judge; Jim Kenney, ex-City Councilman; State Senator Anthony Hardy Williams and Doug Oliver, former Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Communications at Philadelphia Gas Works, were able to attend the forum.

Bender said Former District Attorney Lynne Abraham was unable to attend due to a prior engagement. She said unfortunately they could not get in touch with former State Senator Milton Street, Sr. While the meeting was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., 6ABC news anchor Tamala Edwards, who moderated the event, delayed the meeting until 7:30 p.m. to give Williams extra time to arrive. Unfortunately, only two candidates, Diaz and Oliver, stayed for the entire meeting while Kenney and Williams shuffled in and out. Due to a prior engagement, Kenney had to leave 15 minutes after the forum began.

Candidates answered questions, which were submitted by those in attendance, regarding education, the School Reform Commission, the minimum wage, employment, the economy and crime. Before leaving, Kenney defended his association with unions and funding he has received from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98’s John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty, which Williams referred to as “dark money.”

“Dark money is not even dark anymore because it’s been reported on as to where it all comes from on the independent expenditure report,” Kenney said. “I would much rather have working families supporting me with their union dues as opposed to the three billionaires who want to privatize public education,” he added, referring to American Cities, a super PAC funded by Main Line financial traders Jeff Yass, Arthur Dantchik and Joel Greenberg, who are helping to fund pro-Williams television ads.

Overall, the meeting was civil. One attendee commented that she was disappointed she did not get to see Williams and Kenney go head to head.

The winner of the Democratic primary election will face sole Republican candidate Melissa Murray Bailey in November.