Key black clergy group picks Williams over Kenney in Philly mayor’s race

State Sen. Anthony Williams receives an endorsement for mayor by the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity. (Dave Davies/WHYY)

State Sen. Anthony Williams receives an endorsement for mayor by the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity. (Dave Davies/WHYY)

The Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity has endorsed state Sen. Anthony Williams in the Philadelphia mayor’s race, giving his underfunded campaign a much-needed boost in the three-way Democratic primary on May 21.

Pastor Jay Broadnax, president of the organization, expressed disappointment in Mayor Jim Kenney, saying he has a poor record on diversity in city contracts and high-level appointments. What’s more, Broadnax said, Kenney hasn’t effectively curbed the police practice known as stop and frisk.

“While we had high hopes for a positive direction, in many ways, the people we are seeing in our community are disappointed with what has resulted,” he said of Kenney.

The Rev. Wayne Weathers, chair of the group’s political affairs committee, said the organization took a broader approach to its endorsement process this year, engaging with independent religious organizations and churches, and with the Black Women’s’ Leadership Council.

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The organization’s endorsement is much-sought after in Philadelphia, even though — as heads of tax-exempt religious organizations  — individual clergy aren’t permitted to endorse candidates from the pulpit.

When Williams spoke, he reminded the assembled clergy that they have a voice that matters.

“On Sunday, on Saturday, on Friday, whatever day, whatever your day of faith is, all I need you to say is, ‘You got to go vote, and here are the people we need to vote for,’” Williams said.

The organization endorsed Williams in 2015 when he lost to Kenney in the Democratic primary by nearly 30 points. He said the organization was more divided over that endorsement four years ago, and that its alliances with other groups will give its backing more punch in this campaign.

Williams, the only African American candidate in the Democratic mayoral primary race, said he hopes the clergy will spread the word and boost turnout, saying the Kenney campaign is hoping for a low turnout on May 21.

As of the last campaign finance report, Kenney had $655,000 on hand, while Williams and fellow challenger Alan Butkovitz each had about $50,000.

Other picks

The Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity also endorsed three incumbent City Council members who face primary challenges – Kenyatta Johnson, Jannie Blackwell, and Curtis Jones.

The organization’s picks for five Democratic Council-at-large nominations are incumbent Helen Gym and challengers Sandra Dungee Glenn, Katherine Gilmore Richardson, Erika Almiron, and Billy Thompson.

The group endorsed challenger Jacque Whaumbush for register of wills over incumbent Ron Donatucci.

Broadnax said the group could not come to a consensus for the office of sheriff, where incumbent Jewell Williams has been dogged by sexual harassment complaints and is facing three challengers.

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