By Brent Sailhamer, Director of Government Affairs, ABC Keystone
Just months ago, the U.S. Department of Justice issued subpoenas against several members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 98 for a variety of alleged offenses, including embezzlement, bribery, and theft. While many had been waiting for charges to be filed for years, Local 98 figurehead John Dougherty maintained his innocence, even after being included in the indictment. Also included is Bobby Henon, who not only serves as a senior officer of IBEW 98, but also as a member of Philadelphia’s City Council.
While IBEW was the target of the investigation, the indictment itself caught other fish. Among them was Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, who spearheaded the city’s sugary beverage tax in 2016. The tax effort, the indictment revealed, was a coordinated effort between the Kenney administration and IBEW to muscle out the Teamsters, a competing labor union vying for power in Philadelphia.
With the close ties to IBEW and the promotion of the tax as a tactic to help out one of Pennsylvania’s most powerful labor unions, many saw Kenney as vulnerable headed into Tuesday’s mayoral primary. Also on the ballot was Alan Butkovitz, a former city controller, and Sen. Anthony Williams who represents Pennsylvania’s 8th Senate district in western Philadelphia. While Butkovitz ran on a platform as a fiscal watchdog for the financially-troubled city, Williams is legacy in Philadelphia. Williams succeeded his father, Hardy Williams, in the state Senate and has served as a strong voice for Philadelphia’s African-American population. In addition to his voice for Philadelphia’s minority population, Williams also took an unprecedented step to distance himself from Kenney: he refused support from the city’s building trade unions. Instead of a traditional Democrat approach of cozying up to organized labor, Williams turned his back on them, calling out the recent corruption as a signal of all that is wrong with Kenney’s administration. For ABC and many fiscally-conservative groups, the rebuke made Williams an attractive Democrat in a city that hasn’t elected a Republican as mayor in 67 years.
Despite the scandals, efforts to dodge his competitors, and an unpopular soda tax, the opposition wasn’t enough to sway voters on Tuesday as they overwhelmingly approved Kenney as the Democrat nominee heading into November. Kenney pulled 67% of the vote, with Williams receiving 24%. Billed as a must-watch election in 2019, the mayoral race faded quickly as Kenney took a strong lead early. The mayor will cruise to victory later this year, securing another four years.
May 22, 2019