In the last major city mayoral race, we saw Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel struggling to win re-election in a racially divided city. This time in another racially charged city, Philadelphia, we are seeing a different story.
City Councilor Jim Kenney, a white man facing an African American opponent, won a 30-point victory in the Democratic primary (typically tantamount to winning the general in this deep blue city.)
Kenney Crossed Racial Boundaries With Key Endorsement
Jim Kenney won in the majority-black and majority-white wards. How did he do it? He locked up a key endorsement.
Kenney’s opponent, Anthony Williams, was a huge proponent of charter schools and secured financial backing from a trio of sympathetic multi-millionaire suburbanites.
Angering the city’s Black leaders, a group led by State Rep. Dwight Evans endorsed Kenney over Williams. Philadelphia Magazine interviewed Evans, “Ask[ing] if the endorsement gave black voters permission to look at Kenney, instead of Williams, Evans said: ‘You got it. You got it.'”
Kenney leaned heavily on Evans in the political ad “Heart,” in which Evans testifies: “Jim knows that neighborhoods matter, all neighborhoods matter.” Kenney himself then lists off his priorities: “As mayor, I’m going to end ‘stop-and-frisk,’ have universal pre-K and we’re going to create jobs that sustain families.”
Union Ads Also Buoyed Jim Kenney
A union-funded Super PAC called “Building A Better Pennsylvania Fund” also pushed a unity message – touting endorsements from the local National Organization for Women chapter, the teachers’ union, firefighters’ union as well as “Hispanic and African-American leaders.”
Another political ad from the SuperPAC noted, “Kenny’s ideas for bringing jobs to Philadelphia has both business leaders and working groups endorsing his candidacy.”
These are ads that media consultants can’t simply cook up in a studio. They require the candidate and the political team to line up the key endorsements first.
Jim Kenney executed an old-fashioned campaign, bringing a diverse group of interests together to build an unbeatable coalition. After that, the political ads practically wrote themselves.