Thirty–five candidates for public office in the May 21 Primary Election braved rainy weather to tell about their qualifications and priorities to over 100 local residents at Kingsessing Recreation Center on Friday evening, April 26. As it has for the past 14 years, the gathering was sponsored and run by Southwest Philadelphia District Services with support from Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell.
“We were really pleased with the turnout of both candidates and local residents,” confided Mike Ross, president of SW District Services, who noted that to assure fairness the organizers strictly adhered to the practice of having the office seekers speak in the order in which they signed in. “It was a tribute to the residents that almost all of them patiently waited to hear every one of the candidates.” But of course, the wonderful catered supper at the end of the evening may have influenced the attendees to stick around.
The forum was capably emceed by Barry Smith and Kevin Horne who handled the difficult task of holding speakers to their allotted 3 minutes – albeit with several notable failures. They were also frequently required to remind residents to keep their questions concise – rather than making speeches themselves. Kevin Horne is Events and Activities Facilitator for SWPDS.
Present were two of the candidates who are running in the Democratic Primary to unseat current Mayor James Kenney. Both Alan Butkovitz and State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams outlined what they felt were the failings of the Kenney administration, focusing on schools, safety against violence, unfair housing assessments and the condition of the city streets. They both answered a wide range of questions from residents.
Butkovitz graduated from Overbrook High School, Temple University and Temple Law School and served 15 years as a State Representative for the 174th District. In the state House, he was active on issues involving education and taxes. He was elected City Controller from 2005 to 2016 during which he fought waste and corruption in city government. His agenda as mayor would be cleaner, well-repaired streets, improved public safety, and financial stability and he would cap assessments on low-income and senior housing.
Sen. Williams grew up in West Philadelphia, attended both Anderson and Mitchell Elementary schools and graduated from Franklin and Marshall College. He represented the 191st District in the state House from 1989 to 1998, following which he succeeded his father Hardy Williams as a State Senator in which position he continues to serve. He was a candidate for governor in the 2010 Democratic Primary, finishing third with almost 20 percent of the vote. He is a strong advocate for the fair funding of schools statewide and has backed the expansion of charter schools. A major concern as mayor would be the negative impact of gentrification on renters and elderly homeowners.
Incumbent Mayor James “Jim” Kenney, raised in South Philadelphia, graduated from La Salle University and served on the City Council for 23 years before succeeding Mayor Mike Nutter in 2016. His signature acts as Mayor have been the initiation of the Sugared Beverage Tax and his declaration of Philadelphia as a “sanctuary city” in opposition to President Trump’s use of ICE agents in dealing with undocumented immigrants. The “Soda Tax” is designed to help children benefit from quality Pre-K education and reduce the sugary beverage intake.
The balance of candidates hope to serve as city court judges, at-large city council seats, sheriff, register of wills, and city commissioners were commended for their attendance and patience with the process.
Mayor: Alan Butkovitz, Sen. Anthony Williams
City Council Dist 3: Jannie Blackwell, Jamie Gautier
City Council At-Large: Ethelyn Baylor, Wayne Dorsey, Sandra Dungee Green, Derek Green (I), Dennis Lee, Drew Murray, Kathy Gilmore Richardson, Edwin Santana, Isaiah Thomas, Fernando Treviño
Court of Common Pleas and Municipal Court: Terri M. Booker, Thresa Brunson, Carmella Jacquinto, Craig Levin, Kendra McCrae, Janine Momasso, Jennifer Schultz, Nicola Serianni, Sherman Toppin, Greg Weaver, Gregory Weyer,
Sheriff: Rochelle Bilal, Malika Rahman, (Jewell Williams by a representative)
Register of Wills: Tracey Gordon
City Commissioner: Lisa Deeley (I), Dennis Lee, Omar Sabir
Note: (I) Incumbent presently holding the office.