JIM KENNEY.

White. Irish Catholic. Mummer. The future voice of black Philadelphia.

Strange as it might sound - and look - that's precisely the message that state Rep. Dwight Evans and other African-American political leaders in Northwest Philadelphia sent to voters yesterday when they publicly backed Kenney for mayor.

Kenney, 56, won the coveted endorsement at Relish restaurant on Ogontz Avenue, drawing praise not just from Evans, but from City Councilwomen Marian Tasco and Cindy Bass and state Reps. Cherelle Parker and Stephen Kinsey.

The former city councilman also locked down the support of several Democratic leaders in wards known for higher-than-average voter participation.

In short, big day for Kenney. Not a good Monday for state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, the leading black candidate vying for the party's mayoral nomination.

"We want to move the city forward and we think that Jim Kenney is in the best position and has the best skill set to do that," Evans said after the announcement, adding that his coalition would go door-to-door for Kenney.

Evans pointed to Kenney's opposition to stop-and-frisk and his support for decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana as evidence that he's able to grasp problems facing minorities.

The Kenney endorsement didn't go over well in all quarters of the city.

George Burrell, a former councilman and close ally of former Mayor John Street, said Evans and his allies were undoing the work of former political leaders such as Bill Gray and David Richardson, who he said "fought to create a place at the table of political power for the African-American community."

"These seasoned veterans, who got to where they are through the blood, sweat and tears of their African-American predecessors, should not voluntarily be giving up that seat at the table," said Burrell, a Williams supporter and onetime mayoral candidate. "What they're doing today is a mistake."

Evans dismissed the criticism, saying that his coalition had met with Williams and the other candidates. He said Kenney's 23-year Council tenure also was seen as a potential asset for the next mayor.

"I don't believe anybody is giving up any seat at the table. I think we'll all be at the table," Evans said in response to Burrell. "I kind of don't know what he's talking about."

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