Abraham backs Ramsey, slams Williams’ criticisms as ‘pandering for votes’ [audio]

 Mayoral candidate Lynne Abraham chats with a passerby after her lunchtime press conference near the Clothespin. Twenty feet away, Nelson Diaz awaited an interview with a local-news anchor. (Brian Hickey/WHYY)

Mayoral candidate Lynne Abraham chats with a passerby after her lunchtime press conference near the Clothespin. Twenty feet away, Nelson Diaz awaited an interview with a local-news anchor. (Brian Hickey/WHYY)

Mayoral candidate Lynne Abraham shared a simple message near the Clothespin statue on Friday: She supports Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, wants to keep him in that role if elected and “repudiates” opponent Anthony Hardy Williams “pandering” for votes by criticizing him.

The noon press conference came two days after Mayor Michael Nutter took aim at Williams (and others) in saying “Anyone who’s not smart enough to ask [Ramsey] to stay isn’t smart enough to run this city.”

What she had to say

While Abraham criticized the “stop and frisk” policy which prompted this discussion — “It’s a failed strategy that disproportionately targets people of color” — she said Ramsey should be “judged by his body of work and the steps that he has taken to make Philadelphia a safer and better city.”

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“He will be my police commissioner as long as he chooses to stay. I think he’s an extraordinary talent,” said Abraham of a move that would require her winning the primary and general elections.

“Should he desire not to stay,” she continued, “that will be his choice, and I would consult with him, ask him, in his opinion, who is the person most like him to lead this city in efforts at fighting and suppressing crime and reaching out to the public and rebuilding the bonds of trust between the community and the Police Department.”

Abraham went on to say Williams is “absolutely wrong on this issue” and considered his recent anti-Ramsey push a “pander to the voters, some of whom may think the same way as he, is wrong. It doesn’t show leadership. It doesn’t show true feeling for what needs to be done in a great city.”

NinetyNine asked Abraham what she thinks of this issue surfacing within two weeks of the mayoral primary.

“I am concerned, so late in the campaign, that this is an attempt to, at the wrong time and for the wrong reasons, to garner support for his campaign which he or others may be perceiving as not as robust as he would want it,” she said. “He’s pandering for votes.”

Abraham noted, however, that she’s “not good at mind-reading” so deferred to her opponent for explanation.

“If you really want to know what he thinks, he’s the best person to answer why he’s timing those statements at this late stage in the election,” she said. “On many occasions, he was for Commissioner Ramsey. Now all of a sudden, he’s against him. Why he’s flip-flopped on that issue, I cannot say. You’ll have to ask him.”

We allowed them to retort

We took Abraham’s advice and did so.

Campaign spokesman Al Butler said they’ve issued statements about this in the wake of Nutter’s comments (see our “Mayor Nutter ran to implement stop and frisk and I’m running to end it” story from Wednesday, for instance).

But alerted to the Abraham press conference, he offered more (and drew Jim Kenney’s name into the mix):

As the Senator has traveled the city during the campaign, he’s heard from people on the ground about how detrimental stop-and-frisk policy has been to communities, particularly communities of color, particularly to young, African American men.

It’s impossible to not come to the conclusion that Stop and Frisk has contributed to eroding the trust and respect that people have for the police.

The next mayor and his administration will have to rebuild that trust, with a clean slate.

That is why he raised the issue of Jim Kenney’s consistent defense of abuses of police power and why he has decided that as mayor he would start fresh in the commissioner’s office.

To that last line, Kenney campaign spokeswoman Lauren Hitt responded that “Jim has always been a proponent of limits on police force. He has been in favor of ending stop and frisk for the past several years and has proposed body cameras and focused deterrence to build better relationships between the community and police.”

Milton weighs in, too

Like just about everyone else in the #NextMayorPHL world, Milton Street has also weighed in on the Ramsey stop-and-frisk kerfuffle.

In a statement emailed Friday morning, his stance varied from those who back Ramsey, though.

Mayor Nutter is right, but for the wrong reasons. Anthony Williams should not be mayor but not for the reasons stated by Nutter.

Williams adaptation of my platform to end “Stop and Frisk” and to fire the person most closely identified with this policy shows growth and enlightenment to what is going on in the neighborhoods.

This is what the Nutter Administration has never understood.

He demonstrated that when he ended my brother’s [former Mayor John Street] Neighborhood Transformation Initiative just because it was not his own.

That is is a sign of a person that is not smart enough to Mayor. We have to take steps to ensure our neighborhoods understand that we care. That they matter. That they do count.

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