Kozlowski Dares All in River Wards Race

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STATE REP. John Taylor asked Patty-Pat Kozlowsky to succeed him and she accepted.

BY TONY WEST
In an audacious move, Republicans are mounting a serious effort to hold onto the last inner-city state legislative seat in Pennsylvania – and one of few in the nation – held by a Republican. This despite many signs of an impending Democratic wave in 2018.

And they are doing it with a savvy political aide to two previous Democratic officials, State Rep. Marie Lederer and Councilwoman Joan Krajewski, a candidate who had been a Democratic committeewoman.

Patty-Pat Kozlowski was approached by both parties after State Rep. John Taylor (R-Northeast) announced his impending retirement. Taylor had been re-elected comfortably for decades in a district now with a 7-to-1 Democratic registration edge. He did so by providing matchless constituent service to an urban bluecollar neighborhood where government services are vital.

Kozlowski has been familiar to a host of residents of Fishtown, Port Richmond, Kensington, Bridesburg, Tacony and Mayfair since her teen years. Her kaleidoscopic career includes legislative constituent service, church life (St. George’s in Port Richmond), journalism (with many community newspapers, currently the Bridesburg Bulletin), the Police Athletic League, Boys’ & Girls’ Clubs – and standup comedy. As such, she is familiar in many River Wards bars for her performances. (Her nickname, “Patty-Pat,” was given her by Rosie O’Donnell during an appearance on that show.)

A common theme is the Parks & Recreation Department. A self-described “rec rat,” Kozlowski grew up in Samuel Recreation Center (“My name is still etched on the locker-room wall from when I was a kid,” she says) and still plays volleyball there regularly. For several years, she has served the Stewardship Office in Parks & Rec, having recently been promoted to stewardship coordinator. There is not a rec staff or friends group in the city that does not know and respect her.

“It was the best job of my life,” said Kozlowski. “I never cried so much as when I quit to run for office.”

After pondering R and D offers for a month, Kozlowski was persuaded to take up the Republican baton by Taylor, who pointed out that Republicans are firmly in charge in the State House of Representatives, thus ensuring she could accomplish more for her community as a Republican.

“It was more her interest that combined with ours,” Taylor commented. “Her parents were Republicans. For me, it’s really all about who can best take care of all the things that need to be taken care of.”

Taylor pointed out that his only Philadelphia colleague in the GOP caucus, State Rep. Martina White (R-Northeast), although young, has been allowed to run major legislation. If she were a Democrat – fuhgeddaboudit.

Kozlowski calls herself a moderate. “I’ve always been pro-police and firefighter. I fought with Mayor Michael Nutter about closing Engines 28 and 25. Every August, we hold a memorial for two firefighters who died fighting a big marijuana fire.” But she is socially liberal.

The issue that pushed Kozlowski over the edge is the proposal, hotly floated right now, to set up safe-injection sites for addicts. In the River Wards, this is seen as a threat. These communities have long struggled to survive at or around the epicenter of the drug market.

Kozlowski’s lawn furniture was stolen off their porch. So was her parents’. She parked her car at famously needle-infested McPherson Square to run a children’s program in the library. When she came out, her car was on bricks, stripped.

“They’re not going to put these safe-injection sites in Chestnut Hill,” Kozlowski noted tartly. “They’ll put them here. That’s not what people want or can bear around here.”

The first problem Kozlowski must solve, however, is campaigning. She targets 20 petition signatures a day, all by herself, going door to door. She brings along party-registration forms as well as petitions so that she can get supporters to flip to Republican just to get her on the primary ballot. As she will have no Republican challenger, all she needs is 300 solid sigs. Since she is doing the work herself, she can make sure those she collects are valid.

“I’m wearing out these brand-new sneakers,” she said.

Once her petitions are approved, Kozlowski can concentrate on her general campaign while her numerous would-be Democratic foes must still duke it out for their primary nomination until May 15.

Kozlowski made her campaign announcement on the evening after the Super Bowl parade at St. George’s. Initially she wanted to do it at Byrne’s Tavern (“the Palm Restaurant of Port Richmond,” as Kozlowski called it), but the event outgrew that venue. Eventually, 279 people showed up. Her Italian mother cooked roast pork, her Polish father cooked kielbasa and sauerkraut; they bought two cakes from Stock’s Bakery. They hired a local band. Local watering holes donated beer.

A few nights later, she hit a benefit in Bridesburg for a bar that had burned down. “I got my face out there,” Kozlowski said. “I saw 300 people and got a great reaction. I don’t drink, but I held many beers last night while people signed my petition.”

Kozlowski is a foodie, so she plans to organize “Pizza with Patty-Pat” nights at local pizzerias. She’s looking at beef-&-beers as well.

But there’s not much money in the River Wards. Republican City Committee will cooperate with other funders citywide to help her campaign, but RCC is not made of money these days either. RCC Chair Mike Meehan did say that he was asking House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) to come through with state money for this race. “She is obviously best qualified for this job,” Meehan said. “She’s a good sell.”

Kozlowski has already distributed 250 “Patty-Pat” window signs and has ordered 500 more.

Her father was a Teamster, her mother a hospital worker. Kozlowski has been talking with several unions and is likely to win support. Taylor advised her, “Stay with your labor roots.” Organized labor prizes voices in the House Republican caucus, so it’s a safe bet some unions will back her in the fall.

Some organized city Democrats also value a good Republican intercessor on Capitol Hill. There are many in City Hall and at Democratic City Committee who would be quietly relieved if Taylor is replaced by a skilled Republican like Kozlowski, although it is impossible for them to go on record.

In the River Wards proper, who you are and what you do matter more than your party affiliation or your ideology. Many Dem committee people there will quietly toss any ballot that includes a Patty-Pat opponent.

“Show me a person’s friends and I’ll show you who that person is,” Kozlowski said. “I was overwhelmed by all the people who showed up for my announcement, from all walks of life. They didn’t even know what it was; some of them thought I was going to get married.

“But I know I’m the best person for this job. And that’s not a boast.”

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2 Responses to Kozlowski Dares All in River Wards Race

  1. 4461 Livingston St. lot is a disaster. The block needs help! Needs to be mowed and the cement out front needs to be taken care of.

    Tom Salamon
    June 2, 2018 at 1:43 pm

  2. I am a trans person born and raised in Port Richmond. On election day is the day I say, “f– you” to Miss Patty Pat and every scumbag Republican on the ballot.

    Felony Strutter
    October 9, 2018 at 8:19 pm

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