POLS ON THE STREET: Whitman Native Seeks Congressional Seat

Filed under: Featured News |

L-R, SMOKEY ROBINSON, City Representative Sheila Hess and Gov. Tom Wolf greet each other at the opening exhibit of the Wonders of Water 2018 Philadelphia Flower Show. Smokey spent several hours at the show again on Saturday, autographing books. Photo by Bonnie Squires

Everybody in this year’s throbbing primary political engagement was in Harrisburg on Tuesday, turning in nominating petitions.

Anyone who did not meet the requisite number of valid signatures on these petitions will be disqualified from the May primary. The same fate awaits all candidates whose petitions contain too many bad signatures or, even worse, signs of wicked intent.

State-level candidates were not posted on the Pennsylvania Department of State website as this newspaper went to press, but we will update them online on Thursday at www.phillyrecord.com.

There is an extraordinary degree of chaos in this year’s primary season, thanks to the State Supreme Court’s bold imposition of all-new congressional districts across the state. If these districts survive a U.S. Supreme Court review, they all but guarantee a waterfall of fresh blood into the higher levels of Keystone State politics.

REPUBLICAN gubernatorial aspirant Paul Mango, a Western Pennsylvania health-care exec, toured a Genesis Healthcare facility in Northeast Philadelphia on Tuesday. L-R were Mango, Russ McDade, Tara Winton and Larry Lane. Photo by Wendell Douglas

All three Philadelphia districts are throbbing with fresh competition. We don’t have space this week to go beyond the latest developments in just one of them: the fascinating 5th.

This district attaches most of West and Southwest Philadelphia to a district that is centered on Delaware County, with a whiff of Mainline Montco. No one is completely sure who was circulating Democratic petitions in this race, which is thought to favor Democrats; at least 15 names have been raised.

Does Philadelphia have a chance to retain the third congressional seat it now enjoys? Possibly.

Philadelphia’s share of the 5th District is about one-seventh of its total population. It has two candidates in this race, Molly Sheehan and Rich Lazer.

ON THE SAME team at a congressional campaign luanch at Burke Playground in the Whitman neighborhood of South Philadelphia were, L-R, Councilman Mark Squilla, candidate Rich Lazer and Laborers’ District Council Business Manager Ryan Boyer. Photo by Joe Stivala

But since there are 13 other candidates for this seat who are based in Delco, it is entirely believable that the candidate who emerges from South Philly with the most votes could take this wide-open primary.

Sheehan and Lazer will vie with each other to snap up Delco support. Sheehan’s case is that she was born and raised in the suburbs, thus being attuned to Delco issues. Lazer’s pitch is that his blue-collar appeal will resonate with working-class communities that line the Delaware River below Philadelphia. Sheehan’s pitch is that she was born and reared in Delco.

Working Families Back State House Hopefuls

TOWERING over fellow Oak Lane activists (through no fault of his own) was Ward Leader Pete Lyde, at the petition event for the 49th & 61st Ward Democrats at CCP’s Oak Lane campus. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Pennsylvania Working Families Party made its initial endorsements for the State House of Representatives, supporting State Rep. Chris Rabb (D-Northwest), Joe Hohenstein and Elizabeth Fiedler, a ballot of proven progressive leaders.

PWFP bills itself as a key player in the election of DA Larry Krasner. The operation is now bringing its acumen and ground game to support progressive candidates for the legislature.

Brandon Evans, state director of PFWP, said, “The dysfunctional state of politics at the federal level makes it more important than ever to elect candidates who will fight at the state level for policies that will protect and lift all of us.”

As in the Krasner race, Pennsylvania Working Families Party will provide campaign consultation in these races, including field, as well as mobilizing volunteers and members to put boots on the ground to help endorsed candidates win.

L-R at State Sen. Anthony Williams’ gala birthday celebration in City Line Hilton were Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, State Sen. Anthony Williams, State Reps. Joanna McClinton and Jordan Harris, and State Sen. Sharif Street.

Joe Hohenstein, an immigration attorney, is running for State Rep. John Taylor’s (R-Northeast) 177th Legislative District, seat in the Lower Northeast. He is running on a platform of fair funding for public schools, tighter regulations for gun purchases, raising the state minimum wage to $15, and protecting the environment by levying a severance tax on the oil- and gas-drilling industry.

Fiedler, a reporter at WHYY, aims to replace retiring State Rep. Bill Keller, (ID-S. Phila.), who has served the 184th Legislative Dist. in South Philadelphia for nearly 25 years. Her issues include ending Philadelphia’s 10-year property-tax abatement, which disproportionately benefits developers and the wealthy, she argues. She also supports universal health care, equitable funding for public schools, raising the minimum wage to $15, ending mass incarceration and getting big money out of politics.

A DISTINGUISHED public servant, Al Spivey, L, who has long served as chief of staff to City Council Majority Leader Curtis Jones, Jr., R, has announced his retirement. He was congratulated for his service by State Sen. Vincent Hughes.

PAWFP supported Rabb in his successful run in 2016 where he scored a huge upset victory in the primary. Since his election, Rabb has spoken out in the legislature on ballot access, sentencing reform and resisting the racist policies of the Trump administration.

Wyatt Picks up Negrin’s Backing in 184th Race

Also in the 184th, former candidate for District Attorney Rich Negrin endorsed Tom Wyatt for the State House. Negrin, who began his career as a prosecutor in Philadelphia, and most recently served the city as deputy mayor and managing director, emphasized Wyatt’s commitment to public service.

“I support Tom because of his integrity, authenticity and fierce commitment to acting in service to others,” said Negrin. “He got into public service for the right reasons — to make the lives of his neighbors better and to act in service of his community every day. That’s the Tom Wyatt I know and that’s the Tom Wyatt we need to send to Harrisburg to make sure government works for us.”

Negrin also served as vice-chair of the independent Philadelphia Board of Ethics from 2006-2010. Negrin recognizes that Wyatt’s refusal to take PAC money and to limit individual donations to $500 – even less than the city campaign contribution limits – mirrors his own commitment to transparency and integrity in government.

Kilkenny Wins FOP Support

In the 177th District, Sean Kilkenny was pleased that Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 unanimously voted to endorse him in the Democratic primary. This seat is being vacated by longtime State Rep. John Taylor (R-Northeast).

Kilkenny asserts he is the only candidate in this crowded Democratic field that has been able to secure broad labor support.

Borski Scores Big with Petitions

Another 177th contender, Maggie Borski, submitted over 1,100 signatures to earn a spot on the Democratic primary ballot. Borski collected more signatures than any other candidate in the race, Democrat or Republican. Candidates are required to file at least 300 signatures on nomination petitions to get on the ballot.

“Over the last three weeks, our goal was to knock on doors, meet voters, and earn their support. Despite rain and snow, I am so proud of this campaign and our volunteers. This kind of grassroots effort is what will bring about real change for Philadelphia. We are going to keep working harder than ever,” Borski said.

Candidates Duel in the 181st

Malcolm Kenyatta, who is vying for the North Central 181st Legislative District being vacated by State Rep. Curtis Thomas (D-N. Phila.), supported the Stadium Stompers’ town-hall meeting over community concerns about Temple University’s proposed new stadium. He did not, however, commit to a stand on the stadium’s siting.

“This evening’s meeting was a tea-kettle moment,” Kenyatta said. “Let’s be honest: There was a lot of tension in the room. But this tension cannot be used as a predicate to ending badly needed dialogue. In fact, this tension is what results when there is not sustained conversation based on mutual interest and respect.

“There are no friction-free paths forward, but that’s the direction we must move.”

Laborers’ District Council, whose office is located in that district, has chosen its path forward in this race. LDC has endorsed Kenneth Walker in the May 15 Democratic primary.

Committee Persons a No-Show?

The prayed-for surge of activists seeking ward committee positions did not take place.

City Commissioner Al Schmidt reports that 3,267 candidates filed petitions for committee person. That is only five more than the last midterm election, 2014.

The Republicans saw a catastrophic falloff. GOP filers for committee person went from788 in 2014 to just 513 in 2018.

There are 1,686 divisions in Philadelphia. Each can elect two committee persons for each party.

Snow? What Snow?

While every other government office shut down for Wednesday’s nor’easter, City Commission Chair Lisa Deeley reported her crew was hard at work processing petitions.

Philadelphia Public Record staffers were pleased to learn they were alone in coming to work.

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