Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, battling to keep his presidential hopes alive, deperately needs a big win in the Pennsylvania primary April 22. An endorsement from his close friend, Philadelphia Mayor William Green III, could be a big help. But none has been forthcoming.
The public show of nonsupport for Senator Kennedy by the popular new mayor of this heavily Democratic city dominates many a political discussion here.
Mayor Green's silence is the result of a political dilemma of no small proportions. On the one hand, his family and the senator's have known each other well for many years -- even to the point of having taken a joint vacation. Senator Kennedy has helped Mr. Green here in at least three of the latter's various attempts at public office, including his successful campaign for the mayorship last fall. At that time, the senator told one political gathering, "I want to tell you a little secret. . . . I came to Philadelphia because I love Billy Green."
Now, when he has an opportunity to return the favor, the mayor has to weigh some heavy practical considerations involving his ability to solve some of Philadelphia's problems. He inherited from the administration of his predecessor, the controversial Frank Rizzo, a budget deficit that may reach $167 million next year, according to published figures. To try to erase that deficit , the Mayor Green already has announced a series of stern measures, including the layoffs of 1,290 city employees and proposed tax increases.
But the city needs help from Washington, and it has been openly suggested here that if the Philadelphia Mayor came out for Senator Kennedy in the primary, the Carter administration might retaliate as it did with Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne, when she chose to cast her lot with the Kennedy campaign.
Anticipating just such a possibility, one City Hall insider told Philadelphia magazine last December: "I'll tell you exactly where the shakedown will come. It'll be hardball politics in the areas of HUD money, transportation funds, and urban development action grants. . . . Then they'll go after the Defense Supply Center in South Philadelphia. . . .We've already heard rumblings that the whole installation will be taken down South if the city goes for Kennedy."
In a television interview here earlier this month, Senator Kennedy would not say he expected Mayor Green's endorsement. But he made clear that he would welcome it.
He picked up the public support of Philadelphia District Attorney Edward G. Rendell on an April 2 campaign stop, and other local politicians have endorsed him since then. But the President has been endorsed by the northeast Philadelphia ward leaders' caucus and many of the city's black ward leaders.
"Bill [Green] is in an awfully, awfully difficult position," says a source in the business community who is familiar with City Hall affairs. "I think he would have been happier if Kennedy had dropped out a long time ago. The thing is, Philadelphia is going to get aced out of federal money anyway because of the new federal budget."
However, one liberal inner-city Democratic committeeman, himself a Kennedy backer, says he thinks the mayor will yet come out for his longtime friend -- "probably a week to a week-and-a-half before the primary."
John Dibble, the Carter campaign coordinator for Philadelphia, smiles when he is asked to assess the likely impact of the mayor neutral stance on the Democratic primary here: "No, he has not [endorsed Sennator Kennedy]. But in the past Senator Kennedy has done a lot of campaigning for Bill Green. He is a known commodity here and knows the city, and I believe he has picked up a lot of support in that way."
Mayor Green's press secretary, Kathy Goslinger,says her response to all inquiries about his silence is, "At this time, the mayor is not taking a position."