In one state House race, one campaign has a familiar ring to it

Jewel Williams says she cannot help that her name is so similar to her father's.
Jewel Williams says she cannot help that her name is so similar to her father's. (JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer)
Posted: April 20, 2012

Take a walk down the block of Broad Street just north of Susquehanna Avenue, and it looks as though not much has changed in the state House's 197th District.

The large, green awning over the North Philadelphia district office of State Rep. Jewell Williams still proclaims his name in big, white letters. His portrait still hangs in the window below.

Two doors down, a banner stretches across the facade above a storefront campaign office. It reads: "Vote Jewel Williams, Democrat, State Representative, 197th Legislative District."

Things are not as they seem.

Williams stepped down from his seat in January to take the post of sheriff in Philadelphia.

The campaign office is for his daughter, Jewel, 27, who spells her first name with just one "L."

Through the metal grate covering the windows, it is clear not much of a campaign is going on there. A few campaign posters are tacked on walls. Three chairs and a ladder are the only things in the office. There are no desks or phones or computers.

It's a shell of an office for what her Jewel Williams' foes say is a shell of a campaign.

One of her rivals, Jamil Ali, a community activist and clinical supervisor at Girard Medical Center, said he had seen little of Jewel Williams on the campaign trail. He said he believed the sheriff and his daughter were hoping voter confusion about which Williams was on the ballot would help her win Tuesday's Democratic primary election.

"An uneducated voter will vote for Jewel Williams believing they're voting for Jewell Williams," Ali said. "It's a name game."

J.P. Miranda, another candidate, accused Williams and his daughter of deceptive practices because she is using familiar green-and-white campaign posters that look like her father's old posters.

Miranda, who previously worked for City Councilman Darrell L. Clarke, State Sen. Shirley Kitchen, and Mayor Nutter, called that political "trickery."

Kenneth Walker Jr., the third candidate opposing Williams, said he had heard from confused voters while campaigning. Some think the sheriff is running again for his former House seat, he said.

Jewel Williams, after declining to respond for weeks to the Philadelphia Daily News about her campaign, granted a brief interview Thursday.

"There's no hiding who I am," she said. "I can't help it that my name is Jewel Williams."

Williams' campaign manager, D.A. Jones, prevented her from answering any more questions about her campaign strategy.

"Everything that happened with the campaign, she had nothing to do with," said Jones, a longtime political operative in the city. "I did."

Jones said he designed the campaign to "mimic" her father's previous campaigns as an attempt to capitalize on his legacy in office.

Williams is on an unpaid leave from her clerical job in the auctions department at the Philadelphia Parking Authority. She said she could not recall whether her father played a role in getting her that job, just that he gave her an application to fill out.

She started as a summer intern in May 2008 and was hired for a full-time job with a salary of $32,567 in April 2009.

Williams completed two years at Community College of Philadelphia and is in a nondegree sign-language program at Temple University. She hopes to return to Community College to complete her degree after that.

Williams registered to vote in 2007 using the address of a property her father owned, but she registered to run for office this year using the address of a property her mother owned.

Jones said she lived with her father in 2007 and now lives with her mother.

Her mother's house has unpaid property taxes going back for the last seven years, with city records listing $6,351 in taxes, interest, and penalties due. Jones said the debt was being paid off at $154 per month.

Her father is still leader of the 16th Ward in his old district. Three committee people in that ward tried to clear the crowded political field for her, filing ballot challenges against four candidates in the primary.

One of the people challenged was another ward leader, Gary Williams, who was booted from the ballot by a judge. His fellow ward leaders responded by choosing him as the candidate for a special election that also will be held Tuesday.

The winner of that special election will finish the final six months of Jewell Williams' term.

Former State Sen. T. Milton Street Sr., who spent time in federal prison for not paying his income taxes, also was challenged by the committee people.

Street, who dropped off the primary ballot and chose instead to run in the special election, accused Jewell Williams and his daughter of running a campaign "designed to deceive."

Street said he had encountered Jewel Williams only once while campaigning this year. "She's young," he said. "She probably has some potential. But it hasn't been developed. I don't think she's prepared to take on that responsibility. But her father's pushing her."


Contact Chris Brennan

at 215-854-5973, brennac@phillynews.com, or follow @ChrisBrennanDN on Twitter. Read his blog at www.phillyclout.com.

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