- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 20, 2015

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A veteran Philadelphia councilman who is likely to become the city’s next mayor credited a coalition of union members, immigrants, public school parents and others for his easy victory in a crowded Democratic primary.

Jim Kenney captured the nomination Tuesday despite a pro-charter school group spending nearly $7 million in support of challenger Anthony Hardy Williams, a state senator.

“People of every neighborhood came behind this effort,” Kenney said, citing teachers, public school parents, the LGBT community and others who supported him. “We need this coalition to grow even larger to fix the challenges facing our great city.”

The victory all but assures he will be the next mayor in Philadelphia, where Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 7-1. With unofficial returns almost complete, Kenney was beating Williams by a more than 2-1 margin.

Kenney served on City Council for 23 years before resigning in a bid to replace term-limited Mayor Michael Nutter. The 57-year-old will face Republican Melissa Murray Bailey in November.

“We all must work together if we expect all of Philadelphia to move forward together. That means fighting for universal (pre-kindergarten), community schools, a real living wage and the end to stop and frisk, and by giving every working family the opportunity to succeed, no matter what neighborhood they live in,” Kenney said in accepting the nomination.

The primary serves as the de facto mayoral election in a city where no Republican has been elected to the office since 1948. However, former councilman Bill Green, who serves on a state board that oversees city schools, told Philly.com Tuesday that he may run as an independent.

Green, whose father was a one-term Philadelphia mayor, said low turnout in Tuesday’s primary showed a lack of enthusiasm for Kenney.

“To me, that says that there’s demand for an alternative,” he said.

Independent spending helped Kenney and Williams dominate the airwaves in a mostly ho-hum campaign that focused on the need to stabilize funding for the city’s struggling school system, the economy and most recently, community-police relations.

In the final weeks of the race, the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore vaulted policing and the tense relationship between officers and the community to the top of the debate.

All six Democratic candidates had pledged to end the police practice of stop and frisk.

Kenney enjoyed widespread support from the city’s gay community and immigrant groups. He said he supported keeping Philadelphia a sanctuary city for immigrants who entered the country illegally.

The other candidates were former District Attorney Lynne Abraham, former judge Nelson Diaz, former Philadelphia Gas Works executive Doug Oliver and former state Sen. Milton Street.

Outside influences played an outsized role in the television ad blitz. The American Cities PAC, funded by deep-pocketed investors who favor the growth of charter schools, spent nearly $7 million to support Williams, campaign finance reports showed.

Super PACs backed by unions and progressive causes fueled Kenney’s run with about $2 million in combined spending, according to the reports.

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