Independent Johnson Makes Write-in Try for State Rep

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ANTHONY JOHNSON … running without a party.

BY TONY WEST
Can a man buck the Democratic Party organization and win a state representative race as an independent?

Anthony Johnson aims to do so in the 180th Legislative District, which takes in most of the Juniata Park and Feltonville communities of North Philadelphia. He is waging a write-in campaign against State Rep. Angel Cruz (D-Kensington), an 18-year incumbent Democrat who has survived many years of turbulent intraparty politicking in a rough part of Philadelphia.

The district’s problems call for a new approach, argues Johnson. “We’re facing a crime rate 111% higher than the national average, 40% poverty, 10% unemployment and 39% illiteracy,” he charges. “And we’re facing these challenges without effective leadership.

“On average,” he notes, “only 9% of the residents of the area vote during local elections.”

How, then, is Johnson going to wake them up?

Johnson has been developing a campaign plan for years. He first ran in 2012, as a neophyte, and got nowhere. That made him decide to study the art of grassroots municipal politics. He collaborated with another non-organization candidate’s campaign in 2014. For the next cycle he concentrated on producing community events: an education fair, a job fair, an immigration symposium – the last important in an area with a heavy Latin American immigrant population.

This weekend, he released the “Juniata Park-Feltonville Economic, Education & Crime” initiative. It’s an effort to come up with a coordinated set of strategies to address all its social challenges – complete with funding mechanisms. He has been working on it for years, aided by the Center for the Study of Economics, a research group with expertise in Henry George’s land value tax theory.

Johnson is a college advisor at Graduate Philadelphia, for adults seeking to go back to college to finish their degree. He is an adjunct professor at Lancaster Bible College and Philadelphia/Jefferson University.

North Philadelphia born and bred, he graduated from William Penn High School, from Cheyney State University with a degree in political science and from LaSalle University with a master’s in Central & Eastern European studies. He is planning for his PhD. He has published six books on historical themes.

Johnson has lived in Juniata Park since his marriage in 2002.

In the current cycle, Johnson estimates he has knocked on 6,000 doors, with a blitz in August. He distributes literature in English and Spanish explaining the write-in procedure. It is backed up by a social-media campaign supported by friends. Business owners in the community, he says, have been supportive of his effort and help in distributing his material.

Write-in campaigns are always a long shot. But they can succeed. Right next door in the 197th Dist., in 2016, Emilio Vázquez won by write-in against a Republican whose name was the only one on the ballot.

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