It’s official: Jim Kenney will be Philadelphia’s 99th mayor.
The longtime city councilman quickly defeated Republican candidate Melissa Murray Bailey in Tuesday’s general election.
The race was called so quickly that Kenney addressed supporters at the National Museum of American Jewish History exactly 45 minutes after polls closed in Philadelphia.
It was a short victory speech, a summary of the campaign messages Kenney pushed since leaving council in January to run for mayor.
“I want a lot of things for our children: quality schools, pre-K, community policing and job opportunities that can support their future children,” he said. “But most of all, I want them to grow up in a Philadelphia where we all look past our differences and join together to create a better place for all of us to live.”
Kenney also acknowledged the diverse coalition that supported him, including labor unions, business interests, environmental groups, immigrants and LGBT activists.
A city councilman for 23 years, Kenney was schooled in the ways of “old Philly” politics, but he campaigned as a progressive. He highlighted how he pushed for decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana and for legislation expanding LGBT rights.
Kenney’s mayoral agenda includes a $60 million plan for “universal pre-Kindergarten” for three-and four-year-olds and ending the controversial police practice known as stop-and-frisk. He has also thrown his support behind expanding the Port of Philadelphia, which he claims could bring some 10,000 new working-class jobs to the city.
Kenney won the May primary, beating five other Democrats by a landslide despite entering the race late. His team of former Obama campaign staffers effectively pushed his progressive message. He also had help from the two labor-funded super PACs that spent more than $2 million on TV ads supporting him in that race.
But a pivotal moment for Kenney’s campaign came in April when he was endorsed by a coalition of African-American elected officials from Northwest Philadelphia over a prominent black mayoral candidate, state Sen. Anthony Williams. This was a big deal in a city that often draws political lines around race.
Despite Democrats outnumbering Republicans 7-to-1, Kenney was careful not to publicly take his win for granted in the post-primary election season. During debates, he was civil, if not cordial to his challengers. However, Kenney and his team have been busy behind the scenes preparing for his new job, meeting with potential candidates to run his departments and reviewing transition information from the Nutter administration.