Damon K. Roberts, the Harvard-trained lawyer in his second race for City Council, is expected to drop his bid and throw his support behind state Rep. Kenyatta Johnson.
Details are still being worked out, and the deal could collapse before they are, but three sources familiar with the discussions say Roberts and Johnson have an understanding that should be formally announced in the next few days.
Vincent Thompson, a spokesman for the Roberts campaign, declined comment Wednesday morning. Johnson supporters have been urging Roberts to get out of the race for weeks, and there has been speculation about whether Johnson's mentor, State Sen. Anthony Williams, would agree to back Roberts for Johnson's House seat, should Johnson win. One source said this morning that there was no deal and no intermediaries, that Roberts saw that he would not win and that his candidacy threatened Johnson's campaign.
Roberts' withdrawal from the four-person race, which would have to be approved by the Court of Common Pleas to remove his name from the ballot, could be critical to Johnson's success.
In a racially mixed district with about the same number of white and black votes, election strategists had questioned whether three black candidates -- Johnson, Roberts and Southwest Philadelphia activist Tracey Gordon -- would drain votes from one another and lead to a victory for real estate agent Barbara Capozzi, the only white candidate.
The seat will be vacated by Council President Anna C. Verna, who is retiring in January after 36 years in office. The district covers the western half of South Philadelphia, parts of Center City and Southwest, including the sports stadiums and airport.
Click herefor Philly.com's politics page.