By Kathleen E. Carey, Delaware County Daily Times
POSTED: 02/01/18, 8:14 PM EST
With a vacuum created by the retirement announcement of U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, the field of potential candidates in the 1st District is beginning to take form – including the mayor of Chester, Thaddeus Kirkland.
On Wednesday, Democrat Brady announced that he will leave the seat he’s held for two decades at the end of the year to spend more time with his family.
Contenders have thrown their names into the ring, including Deputy Mayor for Public Engagement Nina Ahmad; political newcomer Casey McLeod; former disgraced traffic judge Willie Singletary; Lindy Li, who ran in both the 6th and 7th districts in 2016; and Michele Lawrence, a former Wells Fargo executive.
Philadelphia Deputy Mayor of Labor Rich Lazer is reportedly considering entering the fray – as is Kirkland.
Kirkland, 63, has been mayor of Chester since 2016. He also served as state representative for the 159th district for 24 years and, prior to that, was a community service coordinator for Crozer-Chester Medical Center. While in Harrisburg, he was a member of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus and was Democratic chairman of the House Tourism and Recreational Committee.
He’s an alum of Chester High School, Cheyney University and Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary and is a pastor at Community Baptist Church.
On Thursday, Kirkland confirmed he is “seriously exploring” entering the 1st district race.
“The experience I’ve had – 24 years in the House and the two years as mayor – gives me the seriousness and the idea to get into the race,” he said. “There is just so much more we can do for areas such as the city that I live in. It’s an opportunity that one should not let go by, especially when you have been in the political arena as long as I have been.”
Of the current political climate, Kirkland said it is one thing to be on the sidelines and it’s another to be on the field fighting.
“There’s some hurtful things that are impacting the lives of people,” he said, adding that two issues he’d want to address as congressman would be education and gun violence.
“We need more money funneled to our schools so we can have adequate programs and we can have adequate teachers in the classrooms with our young people,” he said.
Adding that he’d want gun violence equated with the opioid situation, Kirkland said, “I don’t think people take this gun violence as seriously as they should … Gun violence is at an epidemic proportion right now.”
While he’s talked to his wife, brothers and sisters about a potential campaign, he said he still wants to pray some more about it and put his thoughts and ideas together over the next two weeks.
“I just want to make sure what I am doing is the right thing,” he said.
Also expected to announce today is the Rev. Kevin Johnson, who is holding a rally with supporters this morning in Philadelphia.
Johnson, 43, is lead pastor of Dare to Imagine Church, a ministry that has grown from 20 to 650 in three years, and president and CEO of the Philadelphia Opportunities Industrialization Center, a center for training and job placement for the unemployed, the underemployed, homeless and disadvantaged youth and adults that opened in 1964.
Last August, the OIC launched its WorkForce Academy, a tuition-free high school and job readiness program for 131 teens and young adults.
“My whole life I have been focused on helping people and the community, helping people have a better life,” Johnson said. “When I look at Philadelphia and Delco, the reality (is) that poverty is very big.”
Whoever chooses to campaign for the spot will need to be adept at fund raising as even Brady, who was a well-established Democrat in a highly Democratic district, raised $755,372 in 2016, the last time he ran for his office.