Philadelphia Mayor James Kenney’s (D), Alan Butkovitz (D) and Anthony Williams (D) are running in a Democratic primary May 21 seeking the nomination for the November 5 mayoral election.
Under Philadelphia’s current charter, which dates to 1951, no incumbent mayor has been defeated in a bid for re-election. Kenney recently received the endorsement of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Kenney’s support for a 1.5 cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks that passed in 2016 has drawn criticism from Butkovitz and Williams, both of whom pledged to repeal the tax.
Kenney says he supports the soda tax because it has raised money for the city’s infrastructure and schools. He says he built a progressive record in his first term by increasing the minimum wage for city employees to $15 per hour, declaring Philadelphia a sanctuary city, and pledging to abide by the terms of the Paris Climate Agreement.
In addition to the Inquirer, Kenney has been endorsed by Gov. Tom Wolf (D), Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D), and all three of Philadelphia’s representatives in the U.S. House.
Butkovitz served three terms as city controller before losing to former Kenney administration official Rebecca Rhynhart (D) in 2017. He earlier served eight terms in the state house. Butkovitz says that the Kenney administration has failed to address poverty and violent crime in Philadelphia and has racially discriminatory hiring practices.
Williams placed second to Kenney in the 2015 mayoral primary with 26% of the vote to Kenney’s 56%. Williams has served in the state Senate since being elected in 1998 and earlier served five terms in the state house. He promises to expand charter schools with the goal of reaching every neighborhood. He was endorsed by Philadelphia Magazine, the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity, and former mayor John Street (D).
Kenney raised $1.1 million through May 12. Butkovitz and Williams each raised $150,000. Both supporters and opponents of soda taxes outside Philadelphia have weighed in. The American Beverage Association spent over $600,000 on an ad campaign opposing Kenney. Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who supports the tax, (D) donated $1,000,000 to a PAC spending in support of Kenney.
The winner will face attorney Billy Ciancaglini (R) and any declared nonpartisan candidates in the November 5 election. No Republican has won a Philadelphia mayoral election since Bernard Samuel (R) in 1947.