What A Crisis in African American Leadership Looks Like

Filed in Delaware by on August 1, 2016

Mayor Williams’ Chief of Staff, Gary Fullman, sent an email to the members of The Monday Club, inviting them to a fundraiser sit-down with the mayor but also invoking the real “threat” that a white candidate could win the Mayor’s race:

“Our communities have fared better over the past 24 years (under an African American mayor) than under previous administrations, at the expense of those who previously benefited, and there is a strong effort by those others to regain control of City Government,” wrote Fullman.

“So much so that folks have paid candidates to enter the race or are paying black individuals to garner support for white candidates in the African American communities (Norman Oliver for Mike Pryszicki [sic]). Don’t be fooled. Join us Wednesday evening to converse directly with Mayor Williams to get the real story.”

The “threat”, of course, is that the leadership of the City of Wilmington could pass again into white hands. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But a pitch to The Monday Club (possibly one of the main circles of African American leadership here), trying to remind them of who gives out the goodies AND claiming that Purzycki is buying votes attempts to invoke some very old racial complaints. I don’t know anything about paying people to vote — I do know that campaigns can be a river of money to people to *work* for them on election day. That money can come from campaigns and from unions. But trying to claim that the African American community has done better under African American administrations may be true, but it is not something to write home about — at least considering my own history here. Difficult issues like poverty, joblessness, mass incarceration, failing educational systems in the city and a pretty big broken windows problem in some of the hardest hit neighborhoods demonstrates to me that African American administrations really have not led on these issues. Property values in most of the city are still not where they should be, and our streets are way more dangerous than they should be. The City itself continues to face structural budget issues which gets little attention in terms of a long-term solution from the Administration. Much of the real work to address some of these issues is being done by non-profits, the State and committed individuals — meaning that the leadership to focus these efforts towards a greater progress has not been there.

It’s fair to say that much of these problems could not be resolved by the Administration on its own. It is also fair to say that the Administration (multiple ones of them) could have demonstrated greater leadership in pulling together the right resources to focus on some of these. But what is being warned of here is the potential loss of network to the Administration, the potential loss of the usual largesse, the potential loss of the specific constituent service that has been customary.

The fact that two white men — one of them a stalking horse GOP candidate — are clearly possible winners in a Mayoral campaign that finds BOTH the Mayor and the City Council President very weak candidates indeed. I’ve been talking to a friend about this all election season and it looks like a solid poll finally made it plain how badly Williams and Gregory are doing in an African American majority city.

Much of this leadership supported Williams when he was running and they’ve not been demanding that Williams fix his broken administration — they’ve been just fine with the status quo. Patting yourself on the back and counting yourself content because one of yours is at the helm. The idea is that a community is firmly at the table along with everyone else in the city and better served in order to move the city to a more functional place. This has not been the Williams/Gregory project and now we see the reaction by leadership that never concerned itself with effectiveness.

I’m betting you will see more of this, not less, as the election season progresses. There’s already been a lit piece distributed to some doorways in the city disparaging Kevin Kelly — a piece that conveniently came out shortly after the NJ poll. It’s a nasty piece and I think this starts to show the flop sweat of the Williams campaign. But how much easier would this all have been if this leadership had been vocal and insistent on better performance from this administration, right?

It is too bad that this group can’t come together to support one candidate. If done earlier, they could have been crucial to winnowing the field. Still, I think that if I was a Monday Club member facing the possibility that Fullman details, I might be inclined to stop supporting the folks who are directly responsible and take a hard look at supporting the next generation, Eugene Young. No matter what they decide, the City cannot afford more of the same that they’ve been supporting for the last four years.

EDIT: I’ve included the Kevin Kelley hit piece that was delivered in parts of the city below:
Kelley Hit Piece

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"You don't make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas." -Shirley Chisholm

Comments (35)

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  1. Irwin Fletcher says:

    Good article; however, I’m disappointed you dropped Eugene’s name at the end. The city will be united under Kevin Kelley’s Administration.

  2. Bane says:

    The Monday Club? Fancy…

  3. chris says:

    This email is a disgrace and total embarrassment. Look, its 2016–Philadelphia just elected a caucasian Mayor after decades years of black leadership. Disappointing that the current incumbent Mayor won’t run on what he has accomplished and experience, rather than race. Hard to do if skipping all the debates. Fullman reverting to race card just feels like total desperation move!

  4. anonymous says:

    “Trying to claim that the African American community has done better under African American administrations may be true, but it is not something to write home about — at least considering my own history here.”

    What they mean is that the “leaders” of Wilmington’s African-American community have done better — the same tired old bunch of hacks who can’t find their ass with both hands.

    Velda fucking Potter is running for city treasurer, after looting same as Williams’ advisor. Every dipshit politician in the city who has a mirror looks in it and sees mayoral material.

    Oh, and Irwin — Kevin Kelley couldn’t unite the city with a reservoir full of SuperGlue. He represents a lot of white ethics who long for the good old days, and they were the only people who picked up their land lines for TNJ’s poll.

  5. cassandra_m says:

    The disgrace is that city leadership has ignored its job of asking for effective enough leadership of the city so that appeals to race wouldn’t be needed.

  6. Dem19703 says:

    Unfortunately, Cassandra, you are right. Not only has the abdicated real leadership, City Council has about four adults, with the rest acting like it is their circus and their clowns. Everyone is too busy self-promoting and running for other offices that they neglect the fundamental job of running the city. Take Sherry Dorsey-Walker, for instance. She won her office, then immediately ran for State Senate. She lost that, so instead of focusing on her current position, she filed to run for Lt. Governor. She’s not the only one in that three-ring side-show. Over half of the Wilm. City Council is running for a different office/seat, http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/politics/firststatepolitics/2016/06/08/council-shakeup-could-change-wilmingtons-direction/85200706/.

    It makes governing tough when it is the last thing on your mind, particularly if you are looking to get out of that specific government. Just because someone used the office as a stepping stone to something bigger does not mean they can ignore the basic duties of that office. Unfortunately, this is sadly the case in many instances.

  7. mouse says:

    Doesn’t sound like a progress candidate. The Republicans need to get their shit together and find someone who isn’t a nutcase to run in these races. Hogan got elected in Maryland not because anyone from urban Maryland would vote republican but because of the hubris of the one party democrats

  8. Irwin Fletcher says:


    I agree 100% with comments on Velda; however, your comment about Kevin Kelley obviously means you have a horse in the mayor’s race. Kevin Kelley IS the candidate with crossover appeal. His base of supporters is economic, not based on race or ethnicity. Kevin appeals to the middle class and low income voters. Kevin doesn’t appeal to the white elitists who want turn back the clock back to 1985. That’s why we have the Purzycki / Trump ticket.

  9. ex-anonymous says:

    whether you like purzycki or not, equating him with trump is stupid. purzycki is mainstream, just not as progressive as some here would like. trump is beyond the pale for any rational person. the trump reference just clouds the issue. wilmington voters should understand what they are or are not voting for.

  10. Puzzled Observer says:

    Cassandra, Any chance you could put up a PDF of the nasty flyer? Inquiring minds want to see.

  11. anonymous says:

    His base of supporters is white, making Purzycki his only head-to-head competition. I don’t live in the city and have no dog in the fight. You, on the other hand, have fluffed Kelley repeatedly.

    Kelley would have won in 2012 if Buccini-Pollin hadn’t forced Montgomery into the race. To my knowledge, he showed no evidence of having crossover appeal. Purzycki’s base is the same as Montgomery’s.

    Kelley could win this time, but only if the vote fractures just right. At any rate, you can hope all you want, but nobody is going to unite the city until the current generation of leeches dies off.

  12. anonymous says:

    Again today, kudo’s to WDEL’s Amy Cherry for shining the light on corruption in New Castle County government that TNJ couldn’t bother to investigate:


  13. Cassandra M says:

    The other thing that is tough about city government is that constituent service is too often confused with governing. There are electeds who are mostly elected because they are attentive to their constituents but who contribute little to better government for the city.

  14. Irwin Fletcher says:

    “whether you like purzycki or not, equating him with trump is stupid.”


    Hardly, Purzycki has alienated the rest of us to cater to white Republicans, just like Trump. Purzycki and Trump attract the same voters.

  15. Bane says:

    Right Cassandra,

    They are council members who think the job is soley to be glorified social workers.

    Firmly agree that this current generation of leadership has to go before anything changes.

    I have spoken to a few in the Wilmington establishment who have flat out said

    “Eugene Young and his crew are the future, but its not his turn yet. Theo-Griffiths-Kelly have waited a long time. It may be their last chance”

    That’s not how elections should work!!!

    I like Mike P. He is not Trump. He is a good man. I was at an event where he said that Eugene reminded him of his good friend, former Wilmington Mayor, Tom Maloney who was elected at 30yrs old. He remembers being upset with his friend when, shortly after his election, he was running for US Senate. He said that Eugene is young and he is a visionary like Maloney. His fear is that if Eugene is elected it wouldn’t be long before he would be looking for the next office; but vote for Mike, because this is his last rodeo.

    I just don’t get this from Eugene. Everyone says that he could have run for council, but he wants to be Mayor of Wilmington, and he didn’t want to treat council as a stepping stone. That’s the type of character the city needs.

  16. ex-anonymous says:

    still stupid. are you saying every candidate who is not an officially approved “progressive” is as bad as trump? introduce yourself to reason and sanity. if you don’t, then you’re the one in trump territory. and who are “the rest of us?” democratic party hacks?

  17. anonymous says:

    “Purzycki and Trump attract the same voters.”

    False. And your narrative just proves my point about Kelley. You’re about as unifying as a cherry bomb, and so is he. Everybody knows that when he talks about “the neighborhoods,” he means Hedgeville and Browntown, hardly representative of the rest of the city’s neighborhoods.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like the man. He was clearly the best candidate in 2012, and I blame Bill Montgomery for Dennis Williams. Kelley is poorly served by you, though.

  18. Irwin Fletcher says:


    You haven’t a clue, pal.

  19. anonymous says:

    Convincing response, especially from a partisan.

  20. Dan says:

    And yet Bill Montgomery’s former supporters are walking right back into the same mistake this time around. Amazing.

  21. anonymous says:

    @Dan: Which says something about the electability/uniting qualities of Kevin Kelley, no?

  22. Irwin Fletcher says:


    I agree with you; however I think Young has attracted some of Montgomery’s special interest voters; i.e. the artsy fartsy crowd.


    Keep on trolling, buddy.

  23. anonymous says:

    Hey, just the facts, dude. You either don’t want to face them or are being employed not to.

    “The artsy fartsy crowd.” More unifying language. Keep on alienating people, pal.

  24. ex-anonymous says:

    irwin fletcher, you get dumber by the hour. i see now that you are not a purist progressive, either. i’m thinking you’re maybe the kind of blue-collar guy who thinks people who get out of browntown (or wherever) once in a while must be “artsy-fartsy.” sounds like you might be in the trump demographic! i’m not saying there’s anything particularly wrong with kelly compared with most of the others, but i’d go for either purzycki or young. both are for moving past ideas that haven’t been working in wilmington.

  25. Irwin Fletcher says:

    You Delaware liberals are awfully sensitive. What’s with all the personal attacks? What’s your beef with Browntown?

  26. Dan says:

    I seems like it’s less the other candidates’ lack of charisma and more that the residents of the silk stocking district are insistent on having their own candidate and not being part of any broader city-wide coalition. At the very least, I wish they’d carry this out through fielding a Republican candidate. Even if that candidate didn’t win (which is no certainty, btw), it would force all of the Dems to keep an eye on the post-primary race and not rely on their splintered segment of the electorate. In other words, it could prevent the very type of thing this original post was about. If the candidates all knew they would need a city-wide majority in November, my bet is that you’d see very different campaigning. And different governing.

  27. anonymous says:

    “What’s your beef with Browntown?”

    None at all. It was a citation of fact. That’s Kevin’s constituency and always has been. I’m not saying he’s actively factional, but he’s seen by much of the rest of the city as an advocate for his neighborhoods. I understand his message — that if you understand the city as a collection of neighborhoods, as he does, it’s a useful prism for understanding problems. I don’t think he’s making the sale; if he was, the money boys wouldn’t have recruited Purzycki.

    I understand the GOP recruitment effort brought in about 1,100, which is almost one-third the total Purzycki would need.

    In 2012, Williams won with 4,100 votes. Kelley got 3,000, Montgomery 2,100, Bovell 1,000, Spencer 300. If you break that down racially (bear with me), that’s 5,100 votes for the black candidates, 5,100 for the white candidates, and 300 for the gadfly. (The city’s black population is 58%, but the voting population is whiter).

    I realize that some blacks vote for white candidates and vice-versa, but this has no practical effect — competitive mayoral primaries have followed this pattern for decades now.

    In 2016, the votes will be split three extra ways. The field:


    That’s four blacks, three whites and a Hispanic, but in reality it’s a four-horse race — Young, Williams, Kelley and Purzycki.

    Williams won last time because he took 80% of the black vote. That won’t happen this time. Kelley in 2012 took 60% of the white vote, and might do so again.

    So let’s give Kelley the same 3,000 votes he got last time, and give Purzycki the 2,100 of Montgomery. Add in the GOP converts and he’s tied with Kelley.

    Williams, meanwhile, has lost plenty of support among black voters. The question is how much of it will coalesce around Young, how much of it will go to lesser candidates like Gregory and Griffiths.

    Cabrera’s candidacy is another wild card, but I don’t think she’ll get 400 votes. Marshall will get even fewer. Is the News Journal poll accurate — will 1,000 people pull the lever for Theo Gregory? I’d like to think not, but 1,000 people voted for Bovell, so it’s possible. I think Griffiths is good for another 600. That should leave Williams and Young fighting for about 3,000 votes, plus whatever Young can pull from white communities.

    And who are the whites more likely to defect to a young, charismatic candidate, Purzycki’s bank buddies or Kelley’s regular folks? The answer could settle the election.

  28. Irwin Fletcher says:


    Well put although I don’t think you’re giving enough credit to Theo and to a lesser extent Norm Griffiths. Theo has been running city wide for 30 years, and if he used his current position as Council President more effectively he could be the next mayor. Norm was the 2nd district councilman for years, and defeated Theo in ’08 for City Council President. Ultimately, Norm doesn’t have the energy to do what it takes to win this race.

    I realize the writers and readers of this website are devoted to Gene, but he’s going to get more support from the 8th District than the 1st District (I’m being partially facetious).

  29. anonymous says:

    Theo has impeccably poor political instincts. In this case, he is misinterpreting anti-Williams sentiment for pro-Theo sentiment because, in his role as council president, he’s the most effective tool for fighting Williams. Griffiths is a solid guy but as charismatic as a plate of eggs.

    I thought Kelley was the right choice last time. If city residents couldn’t see that then, I’m not sure why they would see it now.

  30. cassandra_m says:

    If the candidates all knew they would need a city-wide majority in November, my bet is that you’d see very different campaigning. And different governing.

    This is why I am a fan of IRV for the city. It would start to defeat some of the lazy electoral tactics here.

  31. cassandra_m says:

    I’m not saying he’s actively factional, but he’s seen by much of the rest of the city as an advocate for his neighborhoods. I understand his message — that if you understand the city as a collection of neighborhoods, as he does, it’s a useful prism for understanding problems. I don’t think he’s making the sale; if he was, the money boys wouldn’t have recruited Purzycki.

    This isn’t entirely borne out by the NJ poll where Kevin had a pretty broad base of support across black, white and hispanic voters. Browntown is his base, but to be fair to Kevin, he is welcome, liked and known across the city. The money boys recruited Purzycki because they don’t trust Kelley, never have. He had the same problem last time. Kelley still has the advantage of buyer’s remorse. It has really helped him maintain a strong position when I thought it was fading some months back.

  32. ex-anonymous says:

    i’m not thinking very rigorously right now, but isn’t getting a city-wide majority a good thing?

  33. DisafectedXDem says:

    Too bad this is not Trenton.

    The Democrat mayoral candidates are like fat and happy Hessians getting drunk with imaginary power in their party’s political barracks. Meanwhile, Washington is gathering his electoral forces to take Wilmington on NOV 8, 2016.

  34. cassandra_m says:

    @Puzzled Observer, I posted the hit piece on Kevin above.

  35. DisaffectedXDem says:

    I heard from a reliable source that one of the Dem clown candidates tried unsuccessfully to get a serious candidate to put out an attack piece on Norm Griffiths or Theo Gregory because he didn’t have the guts to use his own name.(Obviously, an example of more money than brains.)

    Unfortunately, the whole Democratic mayoral primary is becoming a sick joke on the people of Wilmington.

    Can we afford another four years of the Williams regime?

    When will we get some real leadership?