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State Senator Anthony Williams officially launched his mayoral campaign at Urban Art Gallery in West Philadelphia on March 18. Photo: Emily Neil / AL DÍA News 
State Senator Anthony Williams officially launched his mayoral campaign at Urban Art Gallery in West Philadelphia on March 18. Photo: Emily Neil / AL DÍA News 

State Senator Anthony Williams announces mayoral campaign

The state legislator is launching a bid for mayor in the 2019 Democratic primaries, his second run at the position, against incumbent Mayor Jim Kenney.

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On Monday evening at the Urban Art Gallery on 52nd Street in West Philadelphia, state Senator Anthony “Tony” Williams announced his candidacy for mayor in the lead-up to the Democratic primaries on May 21.

Williams, 62, will challenge the incumbent, Mayor Jim Kenney, in a face-off that will be a repeat of the 2015 elections that saw Kenney defeat Williams by 30 points in the primaries.

As a state legislator, Williams has represented the eighth District, which includes parts of West and Southwest Philadelphia, and Delaware County.

In his campaign kickoff speech to a room full of approximately 40 community leaders, stakeholders, and “opinion-shapers” from across the city, Williams cited the city’s poverty rate of 26 percent, as well as crime and the high homicide rate, as his main priorities as a mayoral candidate.

“Still remaining the biggest city in America with the label of the poorest big city in America should not be where we are today,” Williams said of the poverty rate.

“We should have long ago arrived at the understanding that the homicide rate in Philadelphia is at an all-time high in the last ten years. I do not want to hear anymore about Philadelphia’s crime rate going down and how safe it is. I don’t want to hear the mayor saying anymore, ‘You might think I’m crazy for saying this but this city is safe.’ Well just ask that of a mother or a father or a cousin or friend or grandparent who’s lost their loved one,” said Williams.

“Philadelphia’s dangerous. And the homicide rate has risen faster again than any other big city in America. We should have long ago established this as we have the opioid epidemic,” he added.

According to statistics from the Philadelphia Police Department, there were 317 homicides in Philadelphia in 2017 - the highest number of homicides since 2012, when there were 334 homicides. 

Williams also highlighted his opposition to what he described as the “crushing, regressive” sweetened beverage tax that Kenney has championed as mayor. The senator noted that he would find other resources to support the universal pre-K and Rebuild programs which are currently funded by money from the beverage tax.

“There’s no debate about whether this is a bad tax,” said Williams. “The majority of Philadelphians know that. The problem is that there’s been no substantive conversation about how we protect those programs that we all love.”

Williams also touched on education, home ownership, gentrification, job opportunities, and infrastructure as issues that his administration would address.

Kenney has made Philadelphia’s status as a “welcoming city,” or “sanctuary city” a cornerstone of his administration. Last August, he ended the PARS contract with Immigration Customs and Enforcement, which had allowed ICE to access police arrest information and use it to target city residents based on nationality, race, and more.

Williams said that in terms of serving immigrant communities in the city, he will do the same work that he has been doing as a representative for a district which includes a significant immigrant population.

“In Philadelphia, we have a significant population of people from Africa, Asia, and Latinos, so it’s not just one particular community that’s being affected,” said Williams, adding that his administration would support undocumented residents becoming American citizens.

“As long as they are being productive, supportive, they want to be a part of our community, we’re going to support them,” he said.

In addition to Williams, former city controller Alan Butkovitz will also be running in the Democratic primaries. The winner of the Democratic primaries will face off against Republican candidate Billy Ciancaglini, a South Philadelphia attorney, in the general election on Nov. 5.

Since the city’s Home Rule Charter was established in 1952, no incumbent mayor running for reelection has been defeated.

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