- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 4, 2015

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - An outspoken former city councilman who led a push for smaller penalties for marijuana possession - and landed in the headlines for a Twitter rant on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s Cowboys fandom - stressed a need to make schools the center of the city’s communities as he officially joined the race for Philadelphia mayor.

Jim Kenney, a six-term councilman who resigned last week to run for the Democratic mayoral primary, made his announcement Wednesday in front of more than 100 supporters in the mayor’s reception room at City Hall - a room he chose because he remembered attending a fire department promotion ceremony there for his father in the 1960s. He told the packed room in a short speech that he wanted to make education a focus of residents’ lives.

“The next administration needs to make sure that our schools are the centerpieces of activity in the neighborhoods,” Kenney said. “They need to be the go-to place where people can deal with the issues they need to deal with, get their kids educated and make sure that schools become the center of their communities.”

Kenney has been known as a candid and opinionated councilman, particularly in recent years on social media. He garnered attention in December for calling out Christie on Twitter after he was seen in Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones’ box during a Philadelphia Eagles game.

“Go home,” Kenney tweeted after taking a jab at Christie’s weight. “Take the state helicopter. Creep!”

Christie responded on his radio show with a question: “First of all, who?”

“He’s got to get somebody besides his parents to know who he is,” Christie said on New Jersey 101.5.

On City Council, Kenney was behind legislation allowing police to stop arresting people for possessing small amounts of marijuana and a bill authorizing added penalties for gender identity and sexual orientation hate crimes.

Kenney said Wednesday he wants to provide high-quality prekindergarten education for the city’s children and stressed that Philadelphia must become self-reliant in dealing with its issues.

“There is no Superman from Harrisburg flying in to solve our problems,” Kenney said. “There is no Superman from Washington coming in to solve our problems. Our problems are what they are and we have to get our arms around them and deal with them.”

Kenney joins a field that includes former District Attorney Lynne Abraham, state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams and Judge Nelson Diaz. Other candidates are set to enter the race in the coming weeks. Former city solicitor Kenneth Trujillo and Terry Gillen, who once headed the city Redevelopment Authority, dropped out of the race last month.

The primary election is May 19. The nominee normally faces light opposition in the November election since Philadelphia voters are overwhelmingly Democratic.

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