As most of you know, I have spent a lot of off days and hours after work attending political and campaign events, protests and education rallies in Philadelphia and Montgomery County before I moved to Harrisburg, and it really pained me watching the mayoral primary from afar because it would have been a really fun 4 months of travelling Philadelphia and writing about the campaign trail.
After last night’s landslide victory for Jim Kenney, Holly Otterbein and Patrick Kerkstra wrote an excellent in-depth postmortem on the race. One of the points they focused on is how Anthony Williams managed to fuck up a race that was really his for the taking. Williams had the support of party boss Bob Brady and three suburban millionaires with a large war chest pushing for a charter school agenda. They wrote:
And so Williams ran his campaign as though he’d already won. His team failed to craft a coherent campaign message, build a coalition, or attack Kenney until it was too late. Then, by the time he finally started acting like he was running for something, Williams picked a fight with the wrong guy: Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who is more popular than any other official in the city, Kenney included.
Williams came into the campaign as the most well-known Democratic champion for charter schools and vouchers in all of Pennsylvania. And so onlookers assumed he had an obvious — and better yet, timely — message: Good schools for everyone.
After I moved out to Harrisburg, I spent time meeting and introducing myself to legislators and staffers. At that time, Williams was the front runner and people within the caucus were happy because it finally looked like AHW was leaving Harrisburg for good. Needless to say, the mood shifted swiftly when all roads were pointing Jim Kenney.
Anthony Williams’ embarrassing defeat in last night’s primary should spark a different question. Are we about the watch the senator move into an age of political irrelevance?
In 2010, Williams was backed by the same charter school interests for his gubernatorial run, which was more of him making a name for himself. During that run, Williams received $5 million from the pro-charter school groups but only garnered 18 percent of the primary vote. Not that much return on investment. And we all just witnessed those same charter groups squander $7 million to support Williams losing in a landslide election.
Williams can go one of two routes when he comes back to Harrisburg. He can act as a destroyer or fade into political irrelevance after two pitiful high profile campaigns that got nothing in return.