Johnny Doc talks ‘true believers,’ the labor ‘do tank’ that drove Kenney (and solar energy)

 Labor leader John Dougherty is part of a coalition calling on the Pennsylvania legislature to boost funding for solar energy. (Katie Colaneri/WHYY)

Labor leader John Dougherty is part of a coalition calling on the Pennsylvania legislature to boost funding for solar energy. (Katie Colaneri/WHYY)

John Dougherty, the powerful business manager of the electricians local, was elusive on the campaign trail, exerting his influence behind closed doors. 

In fact, back in April, it got to the point where our colleague Dave Davies posed the telenovela-inspired question: “¿Dónde está Johnny Doc?”

Well, on a sweltering day in May, we finally found him wearing a crisp white dress shirt and black Ray Bans while standing outside the IBEW Local 98 headquarters at 17th and Spring Garden Sts.

There, Dougherty was presiding over a press conference featuring members of the green group PennEnvironment and John Hanger, Gov. Tom Wolf’s secretary of policy and planning.

The coalition was calling on the state legislature to boost funding for solar energy; Local 98 claims it has trained more than 2,000 of its members to install solar panels and build wind turbines. (Click here to read more on the presser from NewsWorks/WHYY’s Jessica McDonald.)

A side conversation

After the presser, we pulled Dougherty aside to talk about another coalition: That being the labor unions that funded two super PACs which dropped more than $2 million backing the winner of last week’s mayoral primary, Jim Kenney.

Here’s what Doc had to say (if what he said had been edited for length and clarity):

On labor galvanizing behind Kenney after Council President Darrell Clarke made it clear he wouldn’t be running (Clarke endorsed Kenney in the campaign’s final week):

“The labor community has been meeting on a regular basis to move working-class issues forward. There was no gigantic agenda other than we had to do a better job of staying closer together, changing as the times changed, modernizing our operations.

“So we met on a monthly basis for close to three years … AFSCME, SEIU, the teachers union, food and commercial workers, the electricians. You have a pretty diverse group of people in the room. … As we referred to it, it was a one-hour think tank that turned into a ‘do tank.’

“We rallied around Darrell. There was a consideration in that conversation for City Controller Alan Butkovitz and a tremendous amount of support for City Councilman Jim Kenney. But to Alan and Jim Kenney’s benefit, they both took their time and let the Darrell situation play out.

“When Darrell announced that he was going to stay [in City Council], it became a pretty consensus process that Jim Kenney would fit some of the concerns that these unions had and the fact that he had two decades worth of experience where he protected collected bargaining, but he understood that you had to change. He got the fact that the contracts had to become more competitive.

“As you can tell, what we saw from Jimmy up close, the people of Philadelphia saw during the campaign cycle. That last 90 days was a sprint for Jim Kenney and he represented himself well, the city of Philadelphia well and all the people that supported him well.”

On the three pro-voucher partners from the Susquehanna International Group who spent nearly $7 million backing state Sen. Tony Williams’ mayoral campaign:

“The people from Susquehanna, they’re true believers. They believe in alternate education. The people who supported Jimmy are true believers and I believe that at the end of the day, Jim Kenney will be capable of delivering for the people of Philadelphia.

“All the polling we did, the people of Philadelphia … want people to focus on education, to continue to do away with stop-and-frisk, to do all these things that were the high points of the conversation, but there’s also a lot going on in the city from a development standpoint, some of the tax abatements and things like that that. They want a steady hand and I think Jim Kenney gave them a foot in the past, but two in the future.”

On whether super PACs were the real winners of last week’s primary:

“I think the people of Philadelphia and the people in the region were the real winners. Again, I think they elected a mayoral candidate who understands the past, has learned from the past and is fully prepared to handle the future.”

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