In the 177th Legislative Dist., Hohenstein Means Service

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JOE HOHENSTEIN, candidate for state rep, is proud of his two Signe Wilkinson original cartoons.

BY TONY WEST
A fifth-generation resident of Frankford, Joe Hohenstein was born into an ethic of moral mission.

His parents were staunch progressives with deep union roots – his father a public-school teacher, his mother a shop steward for AFSCME DC 47. But they didn’t confine their activism to their home town. For years, they served on Catholic social missions in South America and Afghanistan, where many of Hohenstein’s six brothers and sisters were born. It was taken for granted, he says: “You’ve got to serve.”

Today, Hohenstein is fighting to serve the 177th Legislative Dist., which encompasses Bridesburg, Mayfair, Port Richmond, Northwood, Frankford, Kensington, Wissinoming and Harrowgate. These working-class neighborhoods for decades have looked to State Rep. John Taylor (R-Northeast), a master of constituent service. Now, as Taylor is retiring, Hohenstein, a Democrat, wants to fill his shoes.

Hohenstein thinks he has the stuff. He has had a long career as an immigration lawyer, serving clients few of whom are rich and most of whom have troubles. Now he wants to bring those skills to Harrisburg, writing laws for the disempowered.

“The thing that John understood,” Hohenstein said, “is that a state rep must do everything he can to make people’s lives healthier, safer and happier. Everybody knows him. People walk up to him on the street.”

That’s in Hohenstein’s toolkit too, he maintains. Thanks in part to an early gig for Clean Water Action, Hohenstein is a dogged door-to-door canvasser. He treasures meetings even with people who don’t agree with him. That’s the meat and potatoes of an inner-city state rep race.

In a fiercely contested five-way Democratic primary, Hohenstein hit 10,000 doors. For the general, he’s at 5,000 so far. “I take care to see to it that my canvassers are young people from the district,” Hohenstein said. “We train them and pay them $15 an hour.” That helped him overcome a funding disadvantage: His $120,000 budget was topped by two of his opponents.

Hohenstein is also deploying direct mail. He will debate with his Republican opponent, Patty-Pat Kozlowski, the next one coming up at the Veteran Boxers Association in Port Richmond.

And he has a rack of endorsements: most of his primary opponents, all Democratic ward leaders, SEIU, Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, Plumbers Union Local 690, AFSCME DC 47 and Council 13, Temple Association of University Professionals and PFT. In addition, progressive issue groups are on board with him, among them Philly for Change, Philadelphia Neighborhood Network, Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, the Sierra Club, Liberty City, Planned Parenthood, Americans for Democratic Action, Pennsylvania State Nurses Association, CeaseFire PA and Humane PA….

Yes, the animal-rights group. The Hohenstein family is huge on animal welfare.

Education tops the list of Hohenstein’s issues, as befits a teacher’s son. He would drive for more State resources for Philadelphia’s public schools (he is a Frankford High School graduate; his two daughters attend a district and a charter high school). Hohenstein insists the reborn Philadelphia School Board is a work in progress that must rethink its structure.

Opioid addiction rages in the 177th Dist. “Rowhouse blocks are tight knit,” he commented. “I am constantly told that everybody knows somebody, either a family member or a neighbor, who has died from this epidemic. The whole neighborhood needs to feel safe again.”

Inpatient treatment is too short, he argues. Instead of the prevalent 30-days-and-out approach – when the insurance money runs out – Hohenstein says addicts need months of inpatient care, secure from the perils of the street and the pressures of poverty, to make a true turnaround in their lives. This will cost money; he vows to campaign for it in Harrisburg.

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One Response to In the 177th Legislative Dist., Hohenstein Means Service

  1. If we’re going to talk about service, let’s talk about his opponent, Patty-Pat Kozlowski. A Google search will yield articles going back to at least 2010 that record her deep involvement in the neighborhood. She has attended countless neighborhood events that include picking up trash to scrubbing toilets.

    Hohenstein, on the other hand? How has he been active in the community? I would like to more about his stance on sanctuary cities — how making Philadelphia a sanctuary city might benefit his own personal career as an immigration lawyer.

    Jordan M
    October 11, 2018 at 10:28 am

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