Philly councilman wants tougher city candidacy regulation

In a move he says would level the political playing field, Philadelphia City Councilman Jim Kenney wants to prevent elected officials from keeping their current job while running for a city office.

Currently, Philadelphia elected officials must resign to run for a new office. For example, Mayor Michael Nutter left City Council about a year before his term ended in order to run.

Kenney’s proposal, which would require a Home Rule Charter change, would force other elected officials, such as state or federal officeholders, to do the same.

“If you are a city official, and you want to run for another office, you have to quit your job, give up your paycheck and put yourself in a different position,” Kenney said Thursday. “I believe the playing field should be level for all. So the day you file your nominating petitions for a city office, mayor, city controller, district attorney, whatever, you have to not hold office in another subdivision.”

The election watchdog group The Committee of Seventy supported an earlier Kenney charter change to allow city officials to run for office while holding office.

This time, the group is not taking a stand.

“Back in May of 2007, we supported eliminating ‘resign to run’ for city elected officials when it was presented to the voters as a proposed charter amendment,” said Ellen Kaplan of the Committee of Seventy. “We felt that ‘resign to run’ was unfair and created an uneven playing field.”

Kenney says making any elected official resign would even the playing field for everyone who wants to hold city office. In this past election, three state officeholders — Jewell Williams, Kenyatta Johnson and Dennis O’Brien — remained in office while they ran for, and won, city jobs.

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