Mayoral candidates speed date millennials

Ever eager to tap into a growing millennial population in the city, five of the declared candidates for mayor made their pitch to the young folk at the Field House bar in Center City last night. 

In a strict and sometimes awkward format, candidates were given a maximum of seven minutes to state their case to a crowd of about 80 or so potential voters, most of whom fell within the roughly 20-35 year old age range that loosely defines the millennial generation.  They came one by one and left immediately after speaking — a conscious move on the part of organizers Nicole Allen White and Kellan White of the Pattison Leader Group.  They didn’t want the candidates to frame their speeches in response to what their opponents said.

This contest had a very immediate incentive as well: Each attendee was given one chip, which they could cash in to sign one—just one—candidate ballot petition.

Here’s a sampling of the brief stump speeches, broken up into vegetables (serious talk about policy, goals, etc…) and sweets (a little something fun to appeal to the kids)

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Nelson Diaz


“We’re going to fix the schools so that you don’t leave the city.  If you don’t fix the schools, when you have kids, many of you decide to go across the river—or over to the Merion side…Second thing I’m going to do is fix the tax structure…Third, I want you to feel safe in this city.”


“We’re going to keep this city open 24 hours so millennials can party whenever they want to…hey, you’re studying all night?  You’re working all day?  You want to get out there maybe until one, two o’clock in the morning and dance some salsa?  I’d be happy to teach you.  I’ll be out there as the mayor with my wife teaching you how to do some salsa.”

Anthony Williams



“There’s a lot of conversation about types of schools in this election, which is curious to me.  I think the type of school should be a good school.  A good public school.  And we should find a way to fund all good public schools regardless of what type they are: whether it’s a charter, magnet, neighborhood school, it doesn’t matter to me.  What matters to me is my grandson can go to a good public school in Philadelphia.”


“I cannot wait for that moment when the Democratic National Convention comes to Philadelphia and sees what millennials are all about.  God bless you and have a good evening.”  (turns to the organizers) “And you didn’t have to turn the mike off.  Matter of fact I’ll just drop the mike.”

(Aside: In more than ten years of reporting, I can honestly say I have never seen a politician drop the mike—until last night.)

Lynne Abraham


“We have to do more for our children than we’ve ever been able to do before, and the first way that we’re going to do that is to get the proper per-student allotment from Harrisburg so that every single student in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania gets a fair share of education funding…We have to find a better funding formula, and my team and you and everybody else on it will go to Harrisburg and show the legislature that we can and should do this.”


Honestly not much in the way of sweets in this speech, but Abraham did point out some attributes we can build on here (we glass-half-empty locals have a tendency to overlook the parts of our town that do seem to be headed in the right direction).

“We are already a wonderful city…we have new housing.  We have a great port…We have a wonderful food distribution center…we have a good transportation system, we must improve on that.”  (insert frustrating personal experience on SEPTA here)  “We have the greatest colleges and universities that rival the best anywhere…And we have a lot of young people coming here, and this is the strength and the blood that will bring Philadelphia to its pinnacle.”

Jim Kenney


“I am committed to making sure that our school system moves forward…charter schools are here to stay and we’ve got to find a way to coexist.  But taking money from our existing public schools and giving it to the charters without reimbursing them is not something we think is appropriate or fair.  So we’re going to work with our legislative leaders in Harrisburg to make sure that gets turned around.”


Again, not many sweets here.  Kenney said at the outset that he wouldn’t be seven minutes speaking because “you’ve got too much fun to have tonight.”

Doug Oliver


“When folks come out of school, you either don’t have a job or you find an environment that doesn’t support your entrepreneurial spirit.  Or two: by the time you have children, you feel like you can’t raise them here.  But either way we just have this eight to ten year churn and it keeps us from growing and it keeps us from expanding our tax base and having the resources we need to grow ourselves out of the challenges that we have.”


More or less the same thing, said in 20-something-ese.

“We’ve got so many young people coming to this city for our colleges and universities…they stay here, they play here, they date us, and then they go marry New York…they marry D.C.  It’s like Philly’s the jumpoff.  I don’t want us to be the jumpoff.”

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