POLS ON THE STREET: Redistricting Rocks Pa. Politics

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CONGRESSMAN Brendan Boyle settled his Super Bowl wager with Patriots fan, Congressman Joe Kennedy III, last week. Boyle wagered an authentic Philly cheesesteak. Kennedy wagered an authentic Boston cream pie. Kennedy held up his end of the wager and even brought the pie down with him on the plane Wednesday and hand-delivered it to Boyle’s Capitol Hill office.

The State Supreme Court issued the new map for Pennsylvania’s congressional districts on Monday, and the entire political class has been in an uproar since.

This map undoes the 2011 map rewritten by a monolithic Republican majority, which unquestionably carried partisan advantage to a mathematical extreme that violated the Pennsylvania Constitution and threatens our democracy.

The chief question facing loyal citizens is how best to fix this wrong. Is now the best time, right before a primary, to correct these awful boundaries? We could wait until 2020 and do a better job, perhaps.

But we won’t wait. General Assembly Republicans will mount an appeal to the United States Supremes to spike this map, but most observers predict they’ll lose, based on the Supremes’ response to the GA’s last appeal.

OVERBROOK was site of a large West Philadelphia petition-signing party last Saturday. L-R were State Sen. Vincent Hughes, Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell’s granddaughter-in-law Purple Blackwell, great-granddaughter Tommi, host Ward Leader Bob Brady and Blackwell. Photo by Wendell Douglas

In the meantime, all potential candidates of both parties, even incumbents, must adapt themselves to the realities of new district lines. They need to take basic steps like forgetting old district names and learning new ones. Across Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, all politicos of all stripes are staying up late this week, trying to figure out the implications of the new map.

It’s particularly tough for Republican congressional candidates. They must simultaneously cry for a return to the old map while preparing for the new map, which is the likely outcome as of today.

State Rep Races Take Dramatic Turns

After the Public Record reported State Rep. Bill Keller (D. Phila.) was retiring, the representative confirmed it.

COMMUNITY activist Melissa Scott, C, announced her candidacy to run for the state legislature in the 200th district. Here she is seen with former Councilwoman Marian Tasco, Councilwoman Cherelle Parker and Donald “Ducky” Birts along with many others. Photo by Robert Mendelsohn

“After many months of soul-searching, I have decided not to seek re-election to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives,” Keller wrote. “For the past 25 years, I have had the privilege of serving the people of the 184th District in South Philadelphia. I did so with honor, integrity and a relentless work ethic that is a proud hallmark of my hometown. I have enjoyed many wins for the district over the past quarter-century, and have learned from a few losses, as well.

“I take pride in transforming a modest, working-class district into one of the most-desirable neighborhoods in Philadelphia. I fought all of my career for the Port of Philadelphia and am delighted to see its long-held promise finally being fulfilled. I am proud to have played a role in caring for our senior citizens and providing them safe, affordable housing in the only neighborhoods they’ve ever known.

“Although I feel I have much more to give and many more goals to accomplish, Father Time does not stand still for me or anyone. It’s time to step aside and allow the next generation to lead.

COUNCILWOMAN Jannie Blackwell drummed up support for Black History Month at her annual multimedia presentation and banquet at Kingsessing Rec Center. Photo by Wendell Douglas

“This announcement should in no way be misconstrued as my retirement. I plan on looking out for the best interests of my neighbors and my city, and working to support and elect politicians who care as much about our community and its future as I do.”

Keller’s announcement triggered three competitors for his seat to speak out – one by dropping out.

With Keller out, Rowan’s in.

South Philly native Jonathan “JR” Rowan announced his candidacy for the district immediately following Keller’s parting bow. He will be backed by IBEW Local 98.

“Rep. Keller has been a reliable advocate for South Philadelphia neighborhoods for 25 years,” said Rowan. “Our communities would not have grown and thrived without his leadership in Harrisburg and I thank Rep. Keller for his public service.”

MORE THAN 60 people turned out for the Philly Young Republicans’ cocktail party at McGillin’s Olde Ale House in Center City. Ross Wolfe, C, and Philly YR Executive Board presented City Commissioner Al Schmidt with a Leadership Award.

JR is a lifelong resident of South Philadelphia, serving for 20 years in the district offices of two state senators. He has also been involved locally as a coach at EOM Athletic Association, youth sports organizer, board member of Victims Witness Services of South Philadelphia, honorary board member of the South Philadelphia Civic Association, and Democratic Executive Committee representative.

“South Philly needs a fighter with deep ties to the community to fill this seat and hit the ground running,” Rowan continued. “I understand our neighborhoods, and I have decades of experience working to deliver services for South Philly students, working families, and seniors.”

A previously announced candidate from the native South Philadelphia community, attorney Bill Ciancaglini, dropped out of the race when he heard Rowan was in.

LABORERS’ 332 hall was packed with petition-signers. L-R were Ward Leader Tony Faulk, State Rep. Jim Roebuck, Local 332 Business Manager Sam Staten, Jr. and Young Democrats treasurer Jonathan Gary, also a Laborer. Photo by Wendell Douglas

“I have known Rowan for many years,” Ciancaglini said. “I’m a block away from him. And he’s a good man. Frankly, he will make a better state representative than I would.”

Nick DiDonato, a former police detective, did not react to Keller’s announcement by press time.

That leaves two candidates from among the recent whitecollar immigrants into this gentrifying area. Dilworth Paxson attorney Tom Wyatt did not issue a reaction.

But former WHYY reporter Elizabeth Fiedler said, “I thank Rep. Keller for his 25 years of service to South Philadelphia.”

Fiedler also touted a union endorsement: “As the daughter of two union workers, I am so proud to announce that I’ve received the Teamsters’ endorsement!”

STATE REP. Donna Bullock started her re-election campaign in Strawberry Mansion, joined by, L-R, Ward Leader Bernadette Wyche, State Sen. Vincent Hughes, State Rep. Jordan Harris, Council President Darrell Clarke, Bullock, State Sen. Sharif Street, Councilman Bill Greenlee and Ward Leader Gary Williams. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Specifically it was the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters – the Amtrak union. BMWED President Freddie Simpson and Charlie Hogue, director of government affairs, issued this statement:

“Elizabeth will make sure that all workers have safe working conditions, fair wages, health care, and union representation; and she will push for state investment in long term, family sustaining jobs and fight against policies that give tax breaks to the rich and undermine Pennsylvania’s communities.

Fiedler also has many progressive advocates in her pocket. Enthusing for her, Nikil Saval, Reclaim Philadelphia’s chair, said, “The endorsement for Elizabeth Fiedler from Reclaim Philadelphia is a significant milestone for the campaign. Reclaim Philadelphia’s emphasis on relational, grassroots organizing is also reflected in Fiedler’s army of enthusiastic volunteers and extensive door-to-door campaigning.”

Meanwhile, in North Philadelphia, Malcolm Kenyatta is pressing hard for the 181st Legislative Dist. Democratic nomination, where senior State Rep. Curtis Thomas is bowing out.

In an impressive start to the campaign petition-circulation period, Kenyatta this week became the first candidate in the entire Commonwealth to file nominating petitions, submitting nearly five times the number of signatures required to get on to the ballot for the May 15 primary election.

The first batch of 1,496 signatures, collected in just three days, was delivered to the Department of State office in Harrisburg and stood as a testament to the grassroots effort by the campaign and its legion of volunteers.

“I couldn’t be prouder of my staff and volunteers for making this major milestone possible,” Kenyatta said. “Our message of raising the minimum wage (and tying future increases to cost of living), protecting our seniors and low-income families from eviction and high prescription drug costs, and saying once and for all that health care and a quality education is a right and not a privilege for the well-off and well-connected, is resonating throughout the 181st District,” he added.

Kenyatta is a third-generation North Philadelphian and graduate of Temple University.

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