Anthony Williams coy while circulating petitions for Philly mayor

State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams opens a community meeting on neighborhood safety addressing the recent shooting of Philadelphia Police Officer Jesse Hartnett in Cobbs Creek section in 2017. (Brad Larrison for WHYY)

State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams opens a community meeting on neighborhood safety addressing the recent shooting of Philadelphia Police Officer Jesse Hartnett in Cobbs Creek section in 2017. (Brad Larrison for WHYY)

Pennsylvania state Sen. Anthony Williams, D-Phila, is circulating nominating petitions to run for mayor this year, though Williams himself is not yet committed to running.

“He’s preserving his options,” said Williams’ spokeswoman Barbara Grant in a brief telephone interview. “You have to start circulating nominating petitions if you want to run.”

Pennsylvania election code gives candidates running in the May 21 primary a three-week window to collect signatures on nominating petitions, beginning Feb. 19.

To qualify for the primary ballot, Williams must submit notarized petitions with the signatures of 1,000 registered Democrats who live in the city by March 12.

Mayor Jim Kenney and former City Controller Alan Butkovitz are the other two declared Democratic candidates for mayor.

Williams said in a November interview Kenney is vulnerable on several issues.

“We’d be talking about a record of an administration that came into office to reduce poverty, which it has not, to increase safety for all Philadelphians, and most important, transform the educational experience for all Philadelphians, which it has not,” Williams said.

Since then, Williams has continued to ponder a run with little sign he’s raising money for a campaign.

His mayoral campaign committee’s most recent campaign finance report showed only $14,918 on hand as of December 31. The report showed the committee raised no funds in 2018.

Williams lost decisively to Kenney in the 2015 mayoral primary, despite help from a Super PAC funded by three suburban financial executives who are advocates of vouchers and charter schools.

The committee, called American Cities, spent $7 million to promote Williams candidacy. Kenney benefitted from $3 million in spending by two Super PACs funded mostly by unions.

The Kenney campaign’s finance report showed $508,359 on hand as of Dec 31. Butkovitz reported $66,909 in his account.

Butkovitz has openly wished for an independent spending campaign on his behalf by beverage interests angry with Kenney’s sweetened beverage tax.

Williams might also aspire to get help from the beverage industry since he’s also been critical of the tax.

There’s been no public sign that the beverage industry is prepared to spend heavily on the mayor’s race.

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