Wanda Williams, Harrisburg’s City Council president and the winner of the Democratic primary for mayor, issued a statement through her campaign late Monday night in response to incumbent Mayor Eric Papenfuse’s decision to seek a third term through a write-in campaign.
Williams had declined interview requests for most of this week, citing a need to meet with her newly beefed-up campaign team and the recent death of her mother. But in Monday night’s statement, she makes clear that she is ready for the sequel to her primary race against Papenfuse, when they ran a close one-two in a five-way field.
Republican nominee Timothy Rowbottom rounds out the field.
At the top of her response, Williams noted that the recent illness and death of her mother, Patricia Dockens, has limited her time on her campaign in recent weeks, and she thanked everyone for their support through that loss. Mrs. Dockens died in Sept. 1, and her funeral was Sept. 10.
She also criticized Papenfuse for backtracking on his telephoned concession to her on the night of the May 18th primary, and vowed to press forward as the voice of the Democratic Party in the city and — especially — as a voice for female and minority voters who she said are often discounted in the region’s power structures.
Williams said that she expects to fully resume campaign activities by month’s end.
Williams full statement follows:
First, I would like to take a moment to thank all the residents of Harrisburg, including many lifelong friends, and family for their outpouring of love, warm thoughts and condolences for the recent loss of my mother, Patricia Dockens. She inspired my commitment to the community and was a pillar whose example I’ve tried to emulate every day of my life.
Since her funeral, just last week, we have worked as a family to persevere through this sudden tragedy. As anyone who has suffered the sudden loss of a parent knows, the mourning process won’t be easy or immediate, so your continued prayers of support are greatly appreciated. I look forward to resuming our campaign activities by month’s end.
The headlines have been intense over the past week and it’s important to me that I address the community with a balanced response.
The recent remarks made by the current mayor are in stark contrast to the sentiment of encouragement that was made to me when he conceded on May 18th after losing the primary election. In fact, he was on the record in communicating his full support of my ability to lead the City of Harrisburg into the future and made several requests to be integrated on my transition team.
His absence throughout most of his term of office as an essential no-show was only exacerbated after the primary loss. Since his concession and offer to support my leadership, he has consistently obfuscated his responsibility as mayor leaving the City without leadership on the second floor.
Now, when he should be supporting a smooth transition, he’s rushing to refinance bonds, spend down federal relief dollars and hire critical positions in the waning weeks of this administration with no regard for the sustained needs of the City. Mr. Papenfuse is legally able to attempt a write-in campaign, however, I was hopeful that his voice of support would be one that I could count on when he shared his commitment to me as the only Democratic candidate.
Our campaign team is moving forward, and we are grateful for the endorsement from the Dauphin County Democrats, under the leadership of Chairwoman Rogette Harris, as well as the support of many of the candidates for Mayor who have all conceded and expressed positive reinforcement in my ability to lead the City of Harrisburg.
Through the course of my more than 20 years in politics, I’ve seen many attempts to quell the voices of Black women. I’ve seen attempts to ensure that women in politics do not have a proper stake in the conversations that are leading this city. And I’ve committed myself through this campaign to make sure that doesn’t happen any longer.
The time is now to lift the voices of our small businesses, our urban centers, our schools, our communities, heal from the COVID-19 pandemic and take this city to the next level. I’m looking forward to building a broad-based coalition of support that is going to lead this city to the future.
The residents of Harrisburg finally have an authentic leader who is rooted in the community, who’s going to take input from the community, and going to ensure that this beautiful city of ours, lives, breathes and feels like the community it wants to become and has always meant to be.
Williams, 67, is a lifelong resident of Harrisburg and has served on the City Council since 2006.
The general election is Nov. 2, though the first wave of vote-by-mail ballots - which can be cast at any time - are due to land in applicants’ mailboxes by the end of this month.
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