(Jewell Williams posing with Bill Keller, Darrell Clarke, and Anthony Williams)
In a surprise move, Philadelphia Democratic City Committee has revoked their two-day-old endorsement of Sheriff Jewell Williams's reelection after the endorsement sparked public outcry from activists and the media.
Williams has been accused of sexually harassing three separate women in his employ at the Sheriff's office, and one of these cases has been confirmed through an independent investigation.
The City is on the hook for a $127,000 payment to one former Sheriff’s Office employee who sued Williams, and back in 2011, the House Democratic Caucus settled another harassment case from a staffer against then-state Rep Williams for $30,000.
That evidence hasn't been enough for DCC Chairman Bob Brady to withdraw his support for Williams in the past. Brady first told reporters the Party would take a wait-and-see approach after the newer allegations surfaced, and then after the DCC Policy Committee endorsed Williams this week, Brady told reporters "we're not judge and jury."
From Mike Newall's column taking the Party to task for their endorsement:
And who was he, [Brady] asked me, to instill his will on ward leaders, labor bosses, black clergy, and the police union, who all supported Williams? (He’s only the most powerful Democrat in the city, but I digress.)
“I couldn’t take a guy’s livelihood away because of an accusation,” Brady said. “We’re not judge and jury.”
Of course, it's not just an accusation. It's multiple accusations. And at least one of the cases has been confirmed. The fact that there are two existing settlements, and four independent accusations over the years—and that's just what's been reported—should've been more than enough for Democratic leaders to leave Williams off their slate. City Committee may not be judge and jury in any legal sense, but the standard for declining to endorse a political candidate should be much, much lower than that.
Mayor Jim Kenney, Controller Rebecca Rhynhart, and several members of City Council have already been calling on Williams to resign for over a year now, so it isn't like DCC has no cover to do the right thing.
The fact that the DCC's Policy Committee ever thought this was a good idea at all, until they were quickly shamed out of it, just goes to show the urgency for more house-cleaning among DCC leadership.
Democratic City Committee deserves some credit here for ending up in the right place, but the correction is still tainted by the initial vote to endorse. Absent a big uproar, the reversal never would've happened and he'd still be on DCC sample ballots. And the electoral upshot of the ward leaders going with no endorsement instead of getting behind one of Williams's challengers like Rochelle Bilal, Malika Rahman, or Larry King, Sr. is almost as bad as an endorsement, since the Party isn't actually committing any resources to getting Williams out of the Sheriff's office—they're just staying neutral. And in a split field like this, odds are good Williams will be reelected.
Here, by the way, is the list of the ward leaders who signed off on the Williams endorsement, from Philly Mag reporter Ernest Owens. Notably, the number 2 and number 3 DCC leaders, Jannie Blackwell and Angel Cruz, are both on the primary ballot for City Council in a couple of months on May 21, facing off against Jamie Gauthier and Maria Quinones-Sanchez, respectively.