Incumbent James Kenney (D) defeated former City Controller Alan Butkovitz (D) and state Sen. Anthony Williams (D) in the Democratic primary for mayor of Philadelphia. As of 9:30 p.m. ET, Kenney had received 66.4% of the vote to Williams’ 22.9% with 53.5% of precincts reporting.
Kenney, who served 23 years on the city council before his election as mayor in 2015, said that he had demonstrated a progressive record during his first term by increasing the minimum wage for city employees, declaring Philadelphia a sanctuary city, and pledging to abide by the terms of the Paris Climate Agreement. His endorsers included the Philadelphia Inquirer, Gov. Tom Wolf (D), Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D), and all three of Philadelphia’s representatives in the U.S. House.
Butkovitz, who served three terms as city controller before he was unseated by former Kenney administration official Rebecca Rhynhart (D) in the 2017 primary, said that Kenney had not done enough to address poverty and violent crime during his first term.
Williams, who was the runner-up to Kenney in the 2015 Democratic mayoral primary, also criticized Kenney’s response to crime and poverty. As he did in 2015, Williams supported expanding charter schools to every Philadelphia neighborhood. He was endorsed by Philadelphia Magazine and former Mayor John Street (D).
Both Butkovitz and Williams criticized a 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax on soda and other sugary drinks that Kenney implemented in his first term. While Kenney said the measure provided funding for education and infrastructure spending, both challengers promised to repeal the tax and find the money elsewhere in the city’s budget.
Supporters and opponents of soda taxes from outside Philadelphia spent on the race, with the American Beverage Association spending over $600,000 to run an ad opposing Kenney and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (D) donating $1,000,000 to a political group supporting him.
Kenney will face attorney Billy Ciancaglini (R) and any independent or third-party candidates in the November 5 general election. Since 1951, no incumbent Philadelphia mayor has lost a re-election bid, and no Republican has won a Philadelphia mayoral election since 1947.