As he dives into a new legislative session with plans to press forward with gun control legislation and expanded voting among other things, Sen. Anthony Williams also has his eye on another option — running for mayor.
“I think I have some ideas I would like to try in the form of chief executive,” he told the Tribune this week. “That’s why I ran for governor.”
Williams, who ran for governor in 2010, outlined his legislative agenda for the upcoming session in an editorial board meeting with the Tribune.
In a spirited conversation, the senator discussed a range of legislative topics from gun control to education and voting rights. He also took a moment to mull over a future outside the state legislature.
“I’m actively investigating the possibility,” replied Williams when asked if he was considering a run for mayor, something long rumored.
His decision would hinge on several factors, Williams said, including finances, and gauging popular and party support for his candidacy
He didn’t expect to make a decision this year, he said. Mayor Michael Nutter’s term runs to 2016 — a campaign would likely start in 2014, as candidates vie for a nomination in the primary in early 2015.
Turning back to his plans for the coming senate session, Williams said his top priority would be job creation.
However, several of his other proposals are likely to garner more attention in the press.
The Philadelphia delegation is working on a package of gun proposals. Williams has come up with a bill that would create a statewide database to track guns. Despite the fact that it is what Williams describes as a moderate approach to gun control, it is something that could generate debate. Gun control measures of any kind have long been a non-starter in the state legislature.
The shootings at Newtown, Conn., have changed that dynamic somewhat.
“There are extremes on both sides, and members in between — and the ones who are in between are indifferent, ‘If it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ — but now some of these folks are willing to talk about it,” he said. “The epidemic of these guns has been with some of us for a while.”
It’s difficult to tell where the proposal might go.
“Where it will go? I’m not exactly sure,” he said, adding that Pennsylvania officials might delay until another state took action. “The timing is right. The votes are there. I don’t think you have the right governor.”
Williams also expects to introduce another bill — one that would create an early voting period — which he also expects the governor to oppose.
“With this particular gentleman, there are things that are problematic,” Williams said.
Under Williams plan, voters would be able to cast their ballots, in person, up to two weeks before an election. Pennsylvania is one of only 15 states that doesn’t have early voting.
Voting became a controversial issue this year as the state enacted a voter ID law that angered many. Williams, along with other members of the Philadelphia delegation, is party to a lawsuit seeking to have the law overthrown.
The senator also has a plan he hopes will energize Philadelphia voters during judicial elections. Under the proposal, names for judge candidates would be rotated on ballots across the city, rather than the current practice of candidates randomly drawing their ballot position from numbers in a coffee can. Williams hopes the move will wake up apathetic voters by forcing them to pay attention to the names on the ballot thus forcing judicial candidates to campaign more actively.
“The quality of the bench has devolved,” he said, the change “would guarantee that people are looking for your name — as opposed to just looking for your position.”
In general terms, Williams said, Pennsylvania is at a political crossroads.
“Pennsylvania is at the intersection of how it wants to operate,” he said. “Is it a D state, an R state, or always operate independently. I think it’s always going to be more independent.”