Harrisburg’s Democratic nominee for mayor says that she’s gearing up for the November general election, stating that her “campaign team is moving forward.”
In a statement released on Thursday night, Wanda Williams, currently president of City Council, said that she will re-initiate her campaign by “month’s end,” following a mourning period for her mother, Patricia Dockens.
“Since her funeral, just last week, we have worked as a family to persevere through this sudden tragedy,” Williams wrote in a press statement. “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.”
She then directly addressed the entry of current Mayor Eric Papenfuse into the race. On Wednesday, Papenfuse declared that he would run as a write-in candidate, having lost May’s Democratic primary election by 46 votes to Williams in a five-person race.
In her statement, Williams said that she was surprised by Papenfuse’s reaction in the months following the election, as he called her to concede on the night of the primary. Since then, he’s been increasingly critical of her and has cited concerns about her becoming mayor as a major reason for his write-in campaign.
Over the past few months, Papenfuse and Williams have clashed over such matters as a planned refinancing of city debt and the distribution of federal pandemic relief dollars, with each accusing the other of not returning calls and refusing to cooperate.
“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 18 after losing the primary election,” she wrote. “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.”
The general election is slated for Nov. 2, though Dauphin County is expected soon to begin to distribute mail-in ballots. A Republican, Timothy Rowbottom, will also be on the ballot.
Williams’ entire 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.
I look forward to seeing you on the campaign trail very soon.
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