It was a news conference called outside a Locust Street restaurant to “talk about the state of the campaign.”
Based on what ensued, the state of Anthony Hardy Williams’s mayoral bid might be described as “harried” and “confused.”
It started off well enough, with supporter Bryan Leib voicing an endorsement of Williams “on behalf of the majority of millennials in the city of Philadelphia.”
Outside a restaurant where results from an unrelated Franklin & Marshall poll were being announced, Williams stepped to the microphone and questioned the validity of one such independent survey that gave former councilman Jim Kenney a considerable lead in the six-person Democratic field.
“I do respect the fact that people have a craft, there’s a science to it, and there’s a perspective to be provided as a snapshot. That said, pollsters will also tell you that it’s a snapshot, not a guarantee,” said Williams. “We have spent time with voters across the city. Today, I’m talking about the human polling we’re doing, the human data, if you will.”
As pedestrians had to walk into Locust Street to pass by, Williams labeled Kenney and labor leader John Dougherty as “status quo” totems in a city where residents want to move forward.
“They certainly don’t want another administration that’s a ‘Doc/Kenney administration’ that moves us backwards,” he said, laying out his track record in Harrisburg as it pertains to school funding, gun violence and building-trades diversity.
“I don’t need an ambassador to take me to North Philadelphia. I don’t need an ambassador to take me to Northwest Philadelphia. I don’t need an ambassador to take me to Southwest, Northeast, Center City. I have people, real people, who have supported me for a long time,” he said, implying that Kenney does, in fact, need ambassadors like City Council President Darrell Clarke, who endorsed his former Council colleague this week.
Protestors from Action United, who’d handed out flyers slamming Williams’ ties to “three billionaires from the suburbs,” then started chanting and heckling for nearly two minutes.
He didn’t directly respond until they stopped yelling.
Then, he noted they were emblematic of the “thugs [who have] conducted themselves consistently like that throughout this entire campaign. There’s not a volunteer over there. They’re all paid for, and bought, by people that take us backwards. I’m not sure that Jim Kenney reflects anything other than what John Dougherty tells him to reflect.”
Seemingly sidetracked by the dustup, Williams then questioned Kenney’s education and law enforcement stands.
“His recent conversion about ‘stop-and-frisk’ is an election-cycle activity,” he continued. “If he’s going to outlaw ‘stop and frisk,’ I’m not sure why he didn’t do it 23, 21, 10, 5 or even a year ago.”
What about Ramsey?
Williams alluded to purported evidence that Kenney said he wouldn’t retain Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. Williams’ Ramsey-must-go stand has caused an uproar in recent weeks. But his staff couldn’t produce the evidence at that moment.
About 90 minutes later, the campaign emailed audio from a Feb. 28 mayoral forum at West Oak Lane Charter School as evidence.
Question: Who would you like to be your police commissioner? Would you look within the city or go outside?
Kenney: “I have an idea of who I would select. I’m not going to give you that name right now because I think it’s unfair to the person because they’re currently doing a job they’re doing.
But, I see no need in the Philadelphia Police Department to go outside and look for someone outside Philadelphia. I think the command structure, I think Chuck Ramsey has done a fabulous job, but I do think there are people just under him that are awesome, who I work with on the regular basis and I’m not going to go outside Philadelphia Police Department to find our next commissioner.
To that assertion, Kenney campaign spokeswoman Lauren Hitt told NinetyNine, “Jim has always praised Commissioner Ramsey’s leadership and stated that if the commissioner’s national profile didn’t take him elsewhere, then Jim would welcome him in his administration. Sen. Williams is simply making a last-ditch effort to recover from the fall-out of attacking one of the most popular men in Philadelphia.”
Williams declined to provide much of a glimpse into what his internal polling data reveals.
“No, we haven’t given that [internal data] to you because, quite frankly, that’s not the type of campaign we’re running,” he said. “We’re not running a campaign that says ‘we’re in the lead this week or we’re the front runner or we’re tied for first place.’
“We’re running a campaign that connects with voters, knocks on the door, talks to a person and says, ‘We believe in Tony Williams and we’re going to come out to vote for him.’ … They knock on doors and say all the bad things they can possible talk about. They’ve been as dirty as dirty can possibly be.”
In response to a NinetyNine question, though, he said “the information we have makes the race competitive.”
Looking forward from the afternoon presser, he said that his “get out the vote” effort between now and Tuesday will be something “that this city has never seen before.”