Jim Kenney, With Pleasure

I’m going to vote for Jim Kenney for Mayor next week. One reason, as I wrote earlier in the week, is to stop the Four Billionaires from electing a Mayor. But there is another reason as well. I think he could be a really good mayor.

That he’s even running tells you a lot about why.

Kenney got into the race late when the most likely candidate to take up the labor / progressive mantel against Tony Williams, Darrell Clarke and Alan Butkovtiz declined to run. Clarke and Butkovitz had their own reasons not to run, but certainly one consideration was that Williams had broad support and the promise, which turned into reality, of getting a huge amount of funding from the Three Billionaires.

Kenney had that reason to not run, as well. But, when the possibility of getting in late opened up when Ken Trujillo dropped out and Butkovtiz and Clarke declined to do so, Kenney decided to give it a shot.

No one who is successful in politics is a gambler. Perhaps my biggest frustration with politicians is that most of them are incredibly cautious. But, having run and lost in two long shot races, I certainly understand why people for whom politics is, as it was not for me, a career, are cautious.

Jim Kenney is no different. He’s been cautious, too. But if you look at his career, he’s always been willing to take at least some risks and to move outside his comfort zone. And he’s done that because he really, truly cares not just about holding office but about doing good in office.

The Jim Kenney I’ve known since I started doing political advocacy has been one of the bright lights on Council. He’s one of the Council members one could go to with a new, different idea and get a hearing. And if he thought it was a good idea, he would try to see if he could do something with it. It didn’t matter if doing so meant that some of his allies or constituents look cross-eyed at him. Kenney was willing to go a bit out on a limb and take some heat in order to do something right.

That’s why Kenney became the champion of LGBT rights and legalizing marijuana. It’s why he’s supportive creative, and often little know initiatives, on many issues over the years, from immigration to zoning reform.

More often than not, Kenney’s actions have allowed him to broaden his base of support in the city. They have been good policy and good politics. A good mayor needs both. A mayor has needs to build a broad base of support and use it, outside and inside Council, to push for clear policy goals. Kenney will not only wants to do that, he knows how to do it.

I don’t expect I’ll always agree with Mayor Kenney. Over the years he’s found the arguments of the business community a little more attractive than I have. But he hears the other side as well. And unlike some half-progressives who are dismayed whenever labor supports their candidate, I am really glad that he’s got strong labor support in this election. That will make him a better mayor.

I also expect that at times Mayor Kenney will show parts of himself that worry that some folks. There’s the side of Jim Kenney that led him a long time ago to make a pissed-off phone call to me after I encouraged 600 or so Philadelphians to email him on some issue.

Jim joined me in laughing it off the next time I saw him. But the passion that led to his call, and much else that he does, is not only appealing, it’s what makes Jim the guy who was ready to take a chance, give up his Council seat, and make a tough run for Mayor. And it will make him a good mayor as well.

So next Tuesday, I’m not only voting for Jim, I’m going to be very pleased to do so.

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