Williams & Gym differ over endorsement talks

     Philadelphia City Council candidate Helen Gym disputes an account by mayoral candidate and state Sen. Tony Williams over her part in a news conference on the Susquehanna International Group partners. (Lindsay Lazarski/NewsWorks)

    Philadelphia City Council candidate Helen Gym disputes an account by mayoral candidate and state Sen. Tony Williams over her part in a news conference on the Susquehanna International Group partners. (Lindsay Lazarski/NewsWorks)

    Philadelphia state senator and mayoral candidate Tony Williams had sharp words Thursday for City Council candidate Helen Gym, saying he was “disgusted by her duplicity” at asking for his support, then joining in a news conference condemning some of his key supporters.

    But Gym and her campaign manager offered a different story, saying representatives of the Williams’ campaign brought up the idea of including her on his recommended slate in the primary and asked for up to $15,000 to cover related expenses.

     

    The flap followed a morning news conference where a group of liberal organizations released a report condemning three Bala Cynwyd-based financial executives who are funding a super PAC to support Williams’ mayoral candidacy.

    Gym joined in the critique of the Susquehanna International Group partners, saying they push an agenda of school “privatization and vouchers.”

    A couple of hours after that event, Williams and School Reform Commission member Bill Green met with reporters and asserted that just two days earlier, Gym had met with Williams in his campaign office and sought his support for her Council candidacy.

    Gym and her campaign manager, Brendan McPhillips, gave a different account. They said the Williams campaign had invited them to a meeting where two Williams advisers said Williams was considering putting Gym on their recommended ballot — and asked whether the Gym campaign could pay $10,000 to $15,000 for related expenses.

    (It’s a common practice in municipal elections for mayoral candidates to support a slate of candidates for other offices and expect payments to cover ballot expenses.)

    Gym quickly declined, she and McPhillips said, and she had a subsequent meeting with Williams to talk about their views on education. They agreed they would disagree about a lot of things, Gym said.

    “Of course I’m going to sit down with Anthony Williams,” Gym told me. “He deserves respect as a state senator, and I want to work with everyone.”

    She also said that when she met with Williams, she knew nothing about the planned news conference on the Susquehanna partners. She learned about it the night before the event, and avoided mentioning Williams at the news conference, focusing on the role of the Susquehanna donors.

    Williams campaign spokeswoman Barbara Grant didn’t dispute that the campaign discussed a financial contribution if Gym were to be on Williams’ ballot, but said the discussions began with an indication that Gym was interested in Williams’ support. “The entire process was started by Helen Gym’s campaign,” Grant said.

    The anti-Susquehanna report, written by a New York-based group called Hedge Clippers, mostly covers familiar ground about the partners’ political contributions and backing of school choice causes.

    I can’t help noting that Mike Morrill of Keystone Progress misquoted WHYY’s recent report on the scale of the super PAC’s spending in the mayor’s race, and that the report includes a photo of someone identified as Joel Greenberg which clearly is not the Greenberg who’s a Susquehanna partner.

    Greenberg called the report “patently ridiculous” in a prepared statement, asserting that the partners motivation “is only to help the children currently attending failing, often violent schools, over 70 percent of whom are children of color.”

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