With the Democratic primary for mayor five days away, former City Councilman James F. Kenney visited a predominantly African American neighborhood Thursday to pick up the endorsement of City Council President Darrell L. Clarke.

Add Clarke to the list of influential African American elected officials backing Kenney, who is white, including Councilwoman Marian B. Tasco and State Rep. Dwight Evans.

And there was also this on Thursday: The president of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity praised Kenney while saying State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, who is African American, had botched his shot at becoming the city's next mayor.

Plop all that on top of the pile of bad news for Williams, once considered the front-runner and now apparently overwhelmed by Kenney's momentum.

A new poll commissioned by The Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, Philly.com, and NBC10 showed Kenney with support from 42 percent of likely Democratic voters. Williams was tied with former District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham at 15 percent.

Clarke on Thursday took Kenney on a tour of the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center, where senior citizens played pinochle and checkers.

"I wish I was sinking the 8 ball," Kenney joked with a group of men shooting pool. Clarke and Kenney then crossed the street to tour the Stephen Klein Wellness Center.

Clarke later stood on a bustling Cecil B. Moore Avenue and said what everyone came to hear.

"It's time for me to say in a very public way what my position is in terms of who we in City Council will ultimately work with," Clarke said. "And I think that person should be Jim Kenney."

Some Williams supporters have suggested that the now-deceased founders of the city's independent African American Democratic movement would be appalled by black politicians endorsing Kenney.

Clarke rejected that notion.

"The last time I checked, this is America," Clarke said. "This is the city of Philadelphia. If you are registered to vote, you are authorized to select and support whoever you want to support."

Black Clergy president the Rev. Terrence Griffith stood with Clarke and City Controller Alan Butkovitz during Thursday's endorsement.

Griffith, while touring the health center, predicted that Williams would lose the primary.

"He gave this election away," Griffith said. "I think this election is over."

Griffith's group split on its own endorsement last month. The Black Clergy's political committee voted 5-2 for Kenney, but the full membership later voted to back Williams.

Griffith said that as chairman of the political committee, he did not vote. Asked whether he was endorsing Kenney, Griffith said: "I think Jim Kenney would make a great mayor.

Williams campaign spokesman Al Butler later recommended that Griffith "go back and check with his organization's membership, since he seems out of step" on the endorsement.

"On election day, it will be apparent that the opinion of one person is insignificant compared to the will of the people," Butler said.

Clarke titillated the city's political community last year with a will-he-or-won't-he approach to a potential run for mayor.

He then ruled out a run in mid-January, two weeks before Kenney entered the race.

Asked if he regretted that decision, Clarke on Thursday said "never," and repeated it twice.

Then he conceded that he would probably be winning the primary if he were a candidate. "I probably would," he said.

Clarke said his endorsement of Kenney was "somewhat challenging" because he knows all of the Democrats in the race.

The six-candidate primary includes former Common Pleas Court Judge Nelson A. Diaz, former PGW executive Doug Oliver, and former State Sen. T. Milton Street Sr.

"This is in no way essentially saying that they're not qualified to do whatever they do," Clarke said.

Kenney served for 23 years on Council before resigning his at-large seat in January to run for mayor.

Speaking after Clarke, Kenney said he hoped to "replicate" as mayor the relationship Mayor Ed Rendell had from 1992 to 1999 with then-Council President John F. Street.

Rendell was known for showing significant deference to Street in how the city was run, forming a mutually beneficial eight years for both men.

Clarke worked for Street, who went on to be mayor in 2000 after Rendell. Clarke replaced Street on Council.

Clarke's relationship as Council president with Mayor Nutter has been much less cooperative.

Kenney also said he was "gratified" by the new poll that showed him with a commanding lead.

"I'm running as hard as I was running before the poll came out," he said. "I'm glad to be on the upside of that poll, but I'm not taking it for granted."

brennac@phillynews.com 215-854-5973

@byChrisBrennan