A strange thing happened after Thursday’s labor rally for Philadelphia mayoral candidate Anthony Hardy Williams at Love Park.
Both Williams and School Reform Commissioner Bill Green blasted City Council candidate/education activist Helen Gym’s “duplicity” at asking for the former’s support, then joining in a news conference condemning some of his key supporters.
As WHYY’s Dave Davies learned (and wrote), Gym and her campaign wholeheartedly disagreed with Green’s and Williams’ version of events. For the sake of the election-season public record, it bears going into what exactly was said.
Transcript of press availability
Green (introduced by Barbara Grant of the Williams campaign as being here to address the morning’s press conference)
Today, Helen Gym criticized Tony Williams, but 48 hours ago, she sat in the waiting room at Tony Williams’ campaign office asking for support, endorsement and to be on his ballot. That is more than a little hypocritical considering the fact that she founded a charter school, sent her children to charter schools and her children are in special-admit magnet schools.
So, the only dark money in this race is dark money that expects something for their investment, and that is the money of the AFT [American Federation of Teachers] and unions who want to increase teachers’ salaries, don’t want pension reform, don’t want healthcare reform.
They want adults in school buildings, that are their members, to have more money and taxpayers to have less money, and they fully expect a return on that investment.
Williams (asked if that conversation with Gym was with him directly)
I’ll just say this for the record: Helen Gym and I have had several conversations, not just around ballots but around issues of how we improve public education. There have been times we agree. There have been times we disagree.
But what I don’t like is a person who will sit in a room with me and say I’m not going to blindside anyone because I want to maintain a relationship so we can talk about these issues for children. What Helen Gym did today has nothing to do with politics. It’s one’s character.
She sat in a room with me, we discussed about a ballot, she decided she didn’t want to be on the ballot, so that’s forthright: I want to be clear about that. But that was before she thought she wanted to be on the ballot. I didn’t go after Helen Gym; other people told me Helen Gym was interested and then she decided not to. Now I know why. She sat in a room for about an hour and a half; we had a nice, polite conversation.
Williams then delves into boyfriend/girlfriend relationships between Gym and mayoral rival Jim Kenney’s campaign staffers for a few seconds before continuing.
[They] were preparing for this moment apparently where they could talk about one side of the story, talk about three [Williams-supporting Susquehanna International Group] guys.
If Helen Gym is genuinely concerned about that, she asked me the questions about that, in detail, and I gave her a lot of very specific answers that she wasn’t aware of about the relationship, about the fact that the impression is ‘if they’re supporting me, they can’t understand what they want in return,’ I told her in great length that the only thing we’ve ever agreed upon and supported was finding good quality education for children who want it but might be trapped in a tough situation.
There’ve been moments where we disagreed in that process, in those relationships. She didn’t know certain things; my positions for public education as well as options preceded me meeting these guys 10 years ago. So, I didn’t get formulated by anybody and I’m not controlled or influenced by anybody. I further showed her, which again, since ’88, I’ve taken tax votes consistently for public schools; ’89, as a freshman took tax votes under Ed Rendell in support of the public-education system; supported public education since 2010 [with the] cigarette tax, one-percent sales tax are all measures that I’ve offered and helped shepherd through the general assembly.
There’s nobody in this race who Helen can talk about who has a different impression than me and, in fact, she talked about charter schools, her children being in charter schools and why, her investment in that and those kinds of things.
I thought it was a productive, honest, candid conversation about how to bring people together, how to bring people together, about fundamentally facing our public-educational crisis in Philadelphia. Apparently, that was not the spirit in which she entered that conversation. She prepared and planned for this, and I’m very disappointed and, frankly, a bit disgusted by her duplicity.
Grant then interjects that Williams “really has got to go,” but is then asked why she’s “cutting him off just when it’s getting good.”
Williams: One more thing. Again, if we’re going to be balanced, then I’m not sure why she would be talking about, if it was really about buying an election, she can’t possibly be talking about outside interests and not talk about Johnny Doc [Dougherty, the labor leader supporting Kenney], who she clearly knows. And I can’t imagine she would not, and by the way, her friends sent her to me saying that Jim Kenney wasn’t going to have her on his ballot. I would assume at this point in time that’s bought and paid for, and I’m sure there will be a relationship going forward.
As previously noted, Gym offered a vastly different account. Per Davies’ story:
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.”