Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Philadelphia Mayor's Race-- Meet Jim Kenney


Yesterday, having forced Wall Street faux Democrat Rahm Emanuel into a runoff, progressives came up short-- although doing far better than pundits had predicted. Chuy Garcia raised $5.2 million, a substantial amount... but Rahm had over $30 million to spend, most of it from just a few super-wealthy families benefiting financially from his administration. That Chuy did as well as he did is a testament to local field organizers and an ability to raise small contributions from a wide audience.

The next great American city struggling to get out from under the grip of corrupt governance is Philadelphia, where the primary is just over a month away, May 19. Blue America's candidate is Jim Kenney, and Susie Madrak spoke with him and his staffers and has this report.

by Susie Madrak

The first thing you need to know about Philadelphia is that it’s Ground Zero for the charter schools agenda. It’s the first city where charter schools took over, and it’s been “a miserable failure,” according to Democratic mayoral candidate and former City Councilman Jim Kenney.

The second thing you need to know is, Jim Kenney is the only Democrat running in the May 19th Democratic primary who is not a charter school supporter.

The third thing you need to know is, his closest competition is Anthony Hardy Williams, a fervently pro-charter state legislator who is funded by a trio of hedge fund billionaires from Susquehanna International Group (the primary benefactors of the generous tax credits Williams supplied via his school voucher legislation) and have pledged to spend a million dollars on last-minute ads.

So this race is important. Really important. The low-turnout Democratic primary is the de facto mayoral election, and it will be all about who gets the vote out. Money makes a huge difference.

Jim Kenney isn’t only against things; he has a great progressive track record. Kenney is the reason Philadelphia was the first major city to offer same-sex partner benefits to employees. Last year, thanks to Kenney’s tireless work on the City Council, Philadelphia decriminalized marijuana.

He also successfully pushed Mayor Michael Nutter to drop the city’s cooperation with so-called “ICE holds”-- turning immigrants over to the feds on minor infractions.

And you should see the enthusiasm the famously-hyperkinetic Kenney displays when he talks about immigrants as “the future of Philadelphia.”

“My family were Irish immigrants. No Irish need apply, right? We need these people, we want them,” he said.

The Jesuit-trained Kenney is a firm believer in public service and social justice. That’s one reason why he also has a plan to bring universal pre-K into the city.

He’s also authored a plan to pair each community school with onsite social services-- job training, counseling, literacy training.

Kenney was just endorsed by a broad coalition of African-American leaders (the same ones who supported the then-unknown Gov. Tom Wolf), and has sparked broad support from the millennium transplants, who love his in-your-face style. Philadelphia Magazine said:

“Kenney has found a potent political identity in that liminal space between old Philly and new. Nobody on the political stage today better blends the characters of those two great, colliding halves of the city. At his best, Kenney is like a walking hybrid of Two Street and a pop-up beer garden. It’s a combination that makes him a formidable candidate, with the potential to appeal to a broad swath of voters.”

PA Working Families and NOW have endorsed him, as well as local LGBT leaders. He has deep support from almost all local unions-- including the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and their more activist offshoot, Caucus of Working Educators.

The support he needs now is yours. Fight back about wealthy special interests and send a message: Once again, we’ve rejected the elite interests for a proud progressive agenda-- just like we did in New York and Los Angeles.

Let’s put another urban center in the progressive “win” column.

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