Latino political group switches allegiance from Diaz to Kenney in Philly mayor’s race

    Listen
     Amid a group of Democratic ward leaders, elected officials and allies, Philadelphia mayoral candidate Jim Kenney, center, stands with his hand on state Sen. Christine Tartaglione’s shoulder; 7th District Council candidate Manny Morales is pictured behind Kenney to his left. (Image courtesy of Barry Caro/Diaz Campaign)

    Amid a group of Democratic ward leaders, elected officials and allies, Philadelphia mayoral candidate Jim Kenney, center, stands with his hand on state Sen. Christine Tartaglione’s shoulder; 7th District Council candidate Manny Morales is pictured behind Kenney to his left. (Image courtesy of Barry Caro/Diaz Campaign)

    A group of Latino political leaders has dropped its support for Philadelphia mayoral candidate Nelson Diaz and is endorsing Jim Kenney instead. Now, Kenney is getting heat from one of his former colleagues on City Council.

    Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez put out a statement Tuesday saying she was “disappointed that Jim Kenney would seek and accept the endorsement of Latinos United for Political Empowerment” or LUPE. It is the same group backing her challenger, Manny Morales, who was found to post homophobic and racist comments on his Facebook page.

    Kenney’s campaign dismissed the criticism as “petty politics” – Quiñones-Sánchez is supporting state Sen. Tony Williams for mayor.

    Diaz, the only Latino candidate in the race, said his lost endorsement is not necessarily Kenney’s gain.

    “I don’t think he’ll get the votes from the Puerto Rican community,” he said. “I think what he basically has done is show himself to be the biggest opportunist in the election.”

    Diaz told NinetyNine’s Brian Hickey that LUPE asked him for $102,000 in exchange for the group’s endorsement — money that would fund a joint campaign with Morales in the 7th Councilmanic District.

    Diaz said he refused to support Morales and accused Kenney’s campaign of agreeing to a similar deal. 

    “That money’s being given somehow whether it’s Kenney or his big backer Johnny Doc,” he said, referring to John Dougherty, the powerful head of Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The union has endorsed Kenney and donated large sums to the super PAC behind a TV ad campaign in favor of the candidate.

    Diaz’s campaign also put out a photo from LUPE’s endorsement event on Saturday that shows Kenney standing with Morales in a group of Democratic ward leaders, elected officials and allies.

    Kenney’s campaign said he is not supporting Morales, morally or financially. 

    “Jim is very proud of the diverse coalition behind him,” said spokeswoman Lauren Hitt in an email. “All the candidates have promised to bring the city together, Jim’s actually doing it, and that’s bound to create some backlash from people who are uncomfortable changing the status quo.”

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.