Candidates scramble to get edge in new congressional boundaries

Candidates scramble to get edge in new congressional boundaries

Johann Calhoun Tribune Staff Writer Feb 28, 2018

The state’s new congressional boundaries have former candidates of the now old 1st district seat scrambling to find their political footing.

Before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court approved the new congressional boundaries last week, Democratic U.S. Rep. Bob Brady’s 1st Congressional district witnessed six candidates announcing their bid to replace the long-time congressman.

Brady announced in January he would not seek another term in Congress, giving up the seat he’s held for two decades. The FBI last year filed charges against four people in an investigation into a payment his campaign made to a primary opponent in 2012. Three people have pleaded guilty, including a political consultant to Brady.

In the old congressional map, the 1st Congressional district served central and South Philadelphia, the Philadelphia International Airport area and pockets of Delaware County including the City of Chester. In the new map the district mostly serves Bucks County.

Nina Ahmad, Michele Lawrence, William Singletary, Lindy Li, and the Rev. Kevin Johnson had announced their candidacies well before the court made its ruling to change the map.

As of Monday five of the six candidates stated they will still run for an office in districts other than what they previously sought. It is unclear if political newcomer Casey McCleod will still seek an office.

“Recently the district has been redrawn,” McCleod typed on his Facebook page. “The changes from the first to the second. The second will be extremely difficult and decisions have to be made. Should we continue this fight?”

The move by the candidates comes a week after the court imposed a new congressional map, thus changing district lines and congressional races across the state. The court ruled the previous map was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander drawn to favor Republicans.

Ahmad, who is the former deputy mayor, announced on Monday she was ending her congressional run to enter the race for lieutenant governor.

“I was running for Congress because I’ve been fighting injustice and discrimination in Pennsylvania for twenty-five years, and I believe we need more truly progressive voices in government,” she said in a statement on Monday.

Ahmad noted she is switching races to combat the “male-dominated” culture of Harrisburg.

“Its culture won’t change without new voices,” she said. “I will partner with Governor Wolf to help stamp out sexism and sexual harassment that holds us back.”

Ahmad added she is transferring $575,000 from her Congressional campaign to her lieutenant governor campaign. In that race, Ahmad joins Aryanna Berringer, Chester County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone, Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, and Lancaster County Commissioner Craig Lehman.

The new congressional district map was approved last week after the court ruled in January the original map, adopted by the legislature in 2011, constituted an illegal partisan gerrymander.

The court also adjusted the primary election filing period for congressional candidates. Filing begins Tuesday, Feb. 27 and ends March 20.

Further legal action is looming as an emergency application for a stay with the U.S. Supreme Court was filed by Republican Speaker of the House Michael Turzai and Senate Pro Tem President Joe Scarnati. They argue the court overstepped its bounds when it drew up the new map. There have been calls for impeachment of justices that ruled on the new boundaries.

Johnson, who is senior pastor and founder of Dare To Imagine Church and president of Philadelphia OIC announced on Monday his plans to run in the newly drawn 3rd Congressional district.

“As our economy continues to evolve and our democracy is dismantled by the hateful policies of the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans, our communities are being further disenfranchised,” he said. “We need a leader committed to keeping our children safe in their schools and who knows how to get the work done. I stand ready to be that leader for the people and families of the 3rd Congressional district.”

The newly drawn 3rd district is now occupied by U.S. Rep Dwight Evans (D-Pa.) in the former 2nd Congressional boundaries.

“Yes I am seeking re-election,” Evans confirmed with The Tribune on Monday. “I’m seeking to stay in office to keep building on jobs and fighting Donald Trump — most importantly creating economic opportunities block by block.”

Asked about his thoughts on the new map, Evans said he voted against the old one in 2011 and applauds the court’s decision on the new boundaries.

“I thought it was wrong then,” he said. “I embrace the new map. The court moved in the right direction in what they did.”

The borders of the new 3rd Congressional district are comprised of North to Northwest Philadelphia with some pockets in South, Southwest and West Philadelphia.

Another former candidate from the old 1st Congressional race running against Johnson and Evans for the new 3rd district seat is Singletary.

“The Pennsylvania Supreme Court released new congressional district lines today,” said the former traffic court judge last Monday. “I would like to announce that I am still running for Congress where I live!! Therefore, I will be running in the new Pa-3 Congressional District.”

Lawrence announced her candidacy for the newly drawn 2nd Congressional race on Thursday.

“The district lines have changed, but my commitment has not,” she said in a statement. “I will run for Congress in Pennsylvania Congressional District 2, a community in which I have lived for 14 years. I am running to bring service, opportunities and solutions to the people. But my mission transcends any neighborhood or congressional boundaries.

“I will work to empower people through education; help them achieve economic equality; stabilize our access to affordable, quality healthcare; to allow small business owners to find success; and help people build a bridge from poverty to wealth. I look forward to earning the opportunity to serve District 2,” she said.

Lawrence will have a fight on her hands as U.S. Rep Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) announced on Thursday he will seek re-election in the newly-redrawn district. He now represents the 13th district, which covers large portions of eastern Montgomery County and a section of Northeast Philadelphia.

“This was a tough decision,” Boyle said in a statement. “I know my friends, supporters and constituents in Montgomery County – who reached out to me this week and asked me to run in the county – will be disappointed with my decision. But regardless of district number, I won’t stop working for the causes we care about.”

Li, who is Asian-American, said in a statement she is a proud and grateful first-generation American. She’s now running in the 5th Congressional district, which is mostly Delaware County.

“I will stand up for hardworking families who need a champion in Washington,” she said.

jcalhoun@phillytrib.com (215) 893-5739

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