POLS ON THE STREET: City’s Primary Candidate Lineup Takes Shape

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DEMOCRATIC Party Chair Bob Brady roused voters at a rally at the ShopRite in Parkside to boost turnout in Tuesday’s special election in the 190th Legislative District. The event, organized by City Commissioner Omar Sabir, L, drawing a host of other officials in support, included a demonstration of the new voting machines.

Six contestants filed nominating petitions for the Democratic primary ballot in the 198th Legislative District, which centers on Germantown and Nicetown-Tioga. Incumbent State Rep. Rosita Youngblood is retiring.

An assistant to Youngblood, Darisha Parker is among their number. She may have a leg up with party organizers. But the relevant 12th, 13th and 17th Wards have undergone leadership transitions in recent years, so other candidates may be able compete for some of their support or go directly to committee people.

In the running besides Parker are Fareed Abdullah, Nikki Bagby, Michael Cogbill, Supreme Dow and Bernard Williams.

Also lacking an incumbent until this Tuesday’s special election was West Philadelphia’s 190th District, formerly occupied by Vanessa Lowery Brown. Endorsed Democrat Roni Green won that seat handily on Feb. 25 against Republican Wanda Logan with 86% of the vote, although Logan, who has run for that seat before as a Democrat, outperformed the minuscule 5% Republican registration in that district.

SUPPORTING a workers’ protest, Congressman Brendan Boyle joined Transportation Communications Union members across from 30th Street Station to oppose the federal government’s proposed outsourcing of Amtrak call-center jobs to low-paying non-union companies – a major potential hit to Philadelphia.

But most hopefuls ignored the special altogether, focusing on knocking off Green in the April 28 primary. They are Amen Brown, Samuel Downing, Michael Horsey, Roi Ligon, Jr., Danyl Patterson and Theodore Smith. Horsey represented the 190th from 1994 to 2004 while Brown made a serious run for that seat in the 2019 special election.

Once again, the district’s loyalties are splintered. In a seven-way race, anyone can win – in theory with just 15% of the vote. It becomes a retail outreach challenge.

Other incumbents are facing challengers.

State Rep. Maria Donatucci, whose 1185th District overlaps the lower Schuylkill River in South and Southwest Philadelphia, is up against three: Wilson Alexander, Evette Thompson and Regina Genell Young. With a background in the Mayor’s Office of Education, Genell Brown may draw some progressive support. Alexander has run for City Council at large. But Donatucci’s strong connections with party committees may help her to beat a divided field.

COUNCILMEMBER Kenyatta Johnson convened a Special Committee on Gun Violence Prevention hearing on Feb 20 at City Hall. All eyes were on new Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, L, who greeted Johnson and listened personally to many of the citizens who crowded into Council Chambers. Photo by Jared Piper, Philadelphia City Council

Three challengers are also vying to knock off State Rep. Mary Isaacson in the 180th, which ranges along the Delaware from Kensington to Queen Village: Andre Del Valle, Jeffrey Dempsey and Vanessa McGrath.

Until the campaign, Del Valle was an aide to Councilmember Maria Quiñones-Sánchez. Dempsey has standing in the anti-gun-violence movement. McGrath is well connected in the Bar Association, a plus in this attorney-rich district.

Isaacson won her seat just two years ago and her rivals may see her as vulnerable.

State Rep. Jim Roebuck’s 188th District seat in West Philadelphia has drawn a lot of attention for its two well-organized challengers: Gregory Benjamin, the dynamic 51st Ward leader, and Rick Krajewski, who is the paladin of Reclaim Philadelphia. Roebuck has survived challenges before, one quite serious.

A JOB FAIR for W. Philadelphia youths, organized by State Rep. Morgan Cephas at Tustin Rec Center in Overbrook, drew a host of curious applicants. Joining Cephas in this effort were, L-R, Overbrook High Scholl Principal Kahlia Lee, larice Walker and Cephas. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Observers believe the district could split into factions of roughly equal proportion. If Reclaimers, fueled by Bernie Sanders enthusiasm, turn out in droves and also unite behind Krajewski, that could make a difference based on recent voting patterns in that area.

In another West Philly district, State Rep. Morgan Cephas will be taking shots from Jasmine Reavis-Brown and D’Angelo Lee Virgo in her 192nd seat, which represents Overbrook, Haddonfield and Wynnefield. Both are newcomers to candidacy. Reavis-Brown is a benefits specialist, Virgo a musician and conductor. Party discipline is likely to prevail here.

Closer to Center City, Charlotte Greer-Brown, a longtime aide to State Rep. Curtis Thomas, Jr. in the Near North, wants her old office back in the 18th District – but this time at the big desk. She has connections and may put up a credible assault on young incumbent State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta.

AS THE PRIMARY heats up, some candidates have been pursuing funds well outside their district boundaries. State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta held a drag-themed meet-&-greet at Rosewood in Center – L-R, Karen, aide Matthew Miller, Kenyatta, Ginger; kneeling, Keith and Mal.

State Rep. Brian Sims in the 180th, which owns much of Center City, Queen Village and Bella Vista, usually faces a challenger. This year, it’s Marisa Shaaban, a pro political operative with good links to school and women’s activists.

The 194th District, which awkwardly takes in Roxborough-Manayunk with Lower Merion Township – two disparate communities divided by a river – State Rep. Pam DeLissio will again face a fight. This time it’s coming from Bernie Strain, a longtime activist who knows his way around grassroots politics in the city.

Higher up on the food chain is an interesting challenge at the federal level.

Lou Lanni is taking on Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon, whose 5th District takes in much of South Philadelphia as well as all of Delaware County. Lanni’s most-obvious angle is that he is a South Philadelphian of long standing whereas Scanlon lives in suburbia. So he can pitch as the favorite son of 20% of the district.

2ND SENATE District candidate Nikil Saval appeared at a home meet-&-greet in S. W. Philly’s Kingsessing neighborhood. Photo by Wendell Douglas.

Other twists: Lanni, now a businessman, has a background in law enforcement that could appeal to many in South Philadelphia today. He is also an LGBTQ candidate that can appeal to loyalists in that community.

Many of these challengers’ petitions were themselves challenged – Abdullah, Bagby, Cogbill, Greer-Brown, Horsey, Lanni, Ligon, Reavis-Brown, Thompson, Virgo and Williams.

Nikil Saval’s war on State Sen. Larry Farnese in the 1st Senatorial District has been amply reported. For sure, all eyes in Philadelphia’s political crowd will be watching this like the Super Bowl, eagerly looking for hints on the shape of future city elections. It is a clash of generations, of old Philadelphians versus new immigrants, of people who grew up calling themselves “liberals” versus those who revel in the term “progressives.”

One must, though, also mention the contest in the 7th Senatorial District, where State Sen. Vincent Hughes has reigned supreme in parts of Montgomery County, West and Northwest Philadelphia since 1993. Devon Cade filed nominating petitions in Harrisburg for that seat as well.

Close observers of Philly politics will recall Cade best from his faint at the hearing on the challenge to his nominating petitions for City Council at large in the 2019 primary. Cade recovered from his faint but his petitions did not recover from the hearing. During that campaign, Cade proposed several initiatives that were definitely not run of the mill.

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