Category: In The News

Kirkland ‘seriously’ mulling race for Congress

Kirkland ‘seriously’ mulling race for Congress

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. Read More

Philadelphia OIC CEO announces temporary leave of absence

Philadelphia OIC CEO announces temporary leave of absence

February 2, 2018 Category: Local Posted by: Philadelphia Sun Staff

Dr. Kevin R. Johnson will step away to pursue seat in First Congressional District bid

Philadelphia Opportunities Industrialization Center, Inc. announced today that the Rev. Dr. Kevin R. Johnson, President & CEO, Philadelphia OIC, will take an administrative leave of absence to pursue a vacant seat in Pennsylvania’s First Congressional District, effective Friday, February 2, 2018.

“I’m proud of the work that I’ve done and the lives we’ve impacted during my tenure with the Philadelphia OIC. Pursuing this seat will allow me to expand my reach and help more people in impoverished communities,” Johnson said. “I’ve spent my entire life as a tireless advocate – for people I love, for causes I believe in, and for residents of underserved communities and I want to represent Philadelphians because I can be our champion and make sure our voices, needs, and concerns are heard throughout the halls of Congress.” Read More

Race for Brady’s seat gets crowded

Race for Brady’s seat gets crowded

John N. Mitchell Phillip Jackson Tribune Staff Writer Feb 1, 2018

As the Rev. Kevin Johnson makes the drive from West Philadelphia to his office at the Philadelphia Opportunities Industrialization Center on North Broad Street, he is confronted daily by the towering poverty in the city.

It is that same poverty and the people living in it that have inspired Johnson, the founder and senior pastor of Dare to Imagine Church and the CEO at OIC Philadelphia, to enter May’s Democratic primary for the soon-to-be vacant 1st Congressional District seat.

Johnson is joining what is shaping up to be a crowded field in the May 15 primary. Nina Ahmad, Michele Lawrence and William Singletary have already announced their candidacies. State Rep. Joanna McClinton (D-191), a two-term legislator whose district spans parts of Southwest Philadelphia and Delaware County, may also be planning a run. Read More

Bob Brady exits, candidacy flood gates open in First Congressional District

Bob Brady exits, candidacy flood gates open in First Congressional District

Updated: JANUARY 31, 2018 — 6:44 PM EST

by Claudia Vargas & Holly Otterbein – Staff Writers
When Democratic U.S. Rep. Bob Brady announced Wednesday that he won’t stand for reelection this year, it instantly changed the race for Pennsylvania’s First Congressional District.

The proof: A new candidate officially threw his hat in the ring hours after the incumbent took his out, and another politician said she is considering doing the same thing.

Campaign advisers for Kevin R. Johnson, a pastor and head of a workforce development group, told the Inquirer and Daily News that he is running in the Democratic primary for Brady’s seat. He is one of five Democrats currently campaigning in the district. Read More

Bob Brady is not running for reelection

Bob Brady is not running for reelection

Updated: JANUARY 31, 2018 — 12:14 PM EST

by Holly Otterbein, Chris Brennan & Claudia Vargas – Staff Writers

Bob Brady, the larger-than-life leader of Philadelphia’s Democratic Party, announced Wednesday that he is not running for reelection to the U.S. House.

After a year in which he was under the cloud of a federal investigation, he revealed the news in a way that seemed all too perfect for the decades-long party boss: Wearing a long-sleeve Eagles shirt, Brady told ward leaders at a meeting at the Democratic City Committee’s headquarters that he was calling it quits. A platter of hoagies from DeNofa’s in Northeast Philadelphia was served for lunch.

Brady’s announcement could reduce the political clout of Philadelphia’s delegation, which besides Brady has two congressmen with little to no seniority in an election year in which many observers think Democrats could take back control of the House.

It will also likely push more candidates to jump into the race to succeed Brady. In fact, a new contender joined just hours after Brady’s announcement: Pastor Kevin Johnson. Another, State Rep. Joanna McClinton, told radio station WURD that she was considering a run. And though Brady said he is going to continue as party chairman, some will likely see his announcement as a sign the city’s Democratic machine is weakening.

In an interview hours before the party meeting, Brady, 72, said his family, as well as his concerns about how a new district map may affect his fellow city congressmen, factored into his decision.

“I’ve been married for 21 years,” Brady said. “For 20 of those years, I’ve been going to Washington four days a week. I need to come back home.”

At a news conference after the ward leaders’ meeting, Brady reiterated that he wants to spend less time inside the Beltway. “All you can do after 4 or 5 o’clock [in Washington] is eat or drink. I don’t drink, and I certainly don’t look like I need something to eat.”

Though several candidates announced in recent months that they would challenge Brady in the Democratic primary, he said that wasn’t a concern: “I am not afraid of winning.” He was also adamant that last year’s federal investigation into his campaign finances, which snared two of his closest political aides, played no role in his choice.

Brady spent the second half of 2017 under intense scrutiny after it was disclosed that his campaign had given $90,000 to Jimmie Moore, an African American Democratic challenger in the 2012 primary who then dropped out of the race. One of Brady’s aides, Don “DA” Jones, has pleaded guilty in federal court. Another, Ken Smukler, has said he will fight the charges.

“I’ve got a complete bill of health from the federal government,” Brady said. “They told my attorney I am not being charged. They told my attorney in November. No deal was made.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia declined Wednesday to comment on Brady’s characterization of its investigation.

Brady’s lawyers — Ronald Levine and James Eisenhower — were more circumspect and sought to clarify. The statute of limitations expired in January on almost all of the charges that Brady may have faced.

“Based on our review of the status on the case and the fact that the statute of limitations has run… we advised him that we don’t believe he will be charged,” Eisenhower said.

Still, the investigation took a financial toll. Brady’s latest campaign-finance report, filed Wednesday, showed that he paid $256,799 to three law firms in the last three months of 2017.

While the cases wend through the courts, the First District that Brady represents could change. A recent order from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court requires the Republican-controlled state legislature to redraw the 2011 map that set boundaries for congressional districts.

Brady said he did not want his status as a local party chairman to influence that process in his favor, to the detriment of his fellow Democratic congressmen from Philadelphia, Brendan Boyle and Dwight Evans. “I don’t want to be disingenuous and wait for the lines to be drawn and then decide not to run,” Brady said. “To be honest with you, are they trying to favor me? Absolutely they’re trying to favor me. There’s a lot of [potential] maps that have just two congressmen in Philadelphia.”

Brady’s alleged role in influencing the state’s 2011 map was already a headache. Former Deputy Mayor Nina Ahmad, who announced last year that she was challenging Brady, said it was “disgusting” that he had “rallied Democrats to support” the GOP map. Brady, however, said, “I didn’t have any input.”

Wednesday’s announcement came as a surprise to many insiders.

Former City Controller Alan Butkovitz, who represents the 54th Ward Democrats on city committee, said there was much uncertainty in Brady’s district because of the gerrymandering case.

“I think the redistricting was the last straw,” Butkovitz said, adding there were several strong potential challengers. “Then to top it off you have redistricting and you’re going to have [decennial] redistricting in another two years. It’s almost like a message from God.”

State Sen. Anthony H. Williams, a ward leader in West Philadelphia, said Brady told him before the meeting that he has served a long time and that he considered the toll of another term.

“He talked about his wife, his children, his grandchildren that he wants to have an opportunity to spend time with them without the stress of public office,” Williams said. “One of his kids is expecting and he’s stuck in Washington, D.C.”

Brady, a deal-maker with a leadership post on the House Committee on Administration, was not a policy wonk with a long legislative record of accomplishment.

He has also been criticized over the years for serving as party chairman as numerous Philly Democrats, including former District Attorney Seth Williams, were convicted of crimes.

But Brady has also been celebrated for helping avert labor strikes, bringing home money, and voting against authorization of the Iraq war. At Wednesday’s news conference, Brady highlighted an estimated $15.5 billion — with a “b” — in federal funding that flowed to Philadelphia since he first went to Washington in a 1998 special election.

“Those are things that nobody in here knows,” he said to the room full of reporters. “Maybe it’s my fault that I don’t profess it or brag about it.”

Brady also said he was proud of his recent efforts to help rewrite House rules on dealing with sexual-harassment cases. Those changes, which Brady referred to as the “Me Too Act,” would pay for legal representation if a congressional staffer accused a lawmaker of harassment as well as prevent members of Congress from paying settlements with taxpayer dollars, as Rep. Patrick Meehan, a Delaware County Republican, did in a recently disclosed case.

Before getting into politics, Brady worked as a union carpenter. He got involved in the Democratic Party after a friend suggested that he do remodeling work for then-Council President George Schwartz.

Schwartz mentored Brady, who became Council sergeant-at-arms and a committee person. When Schwartz resigned after being charged in the Abscam scandal, he picked Brady to take his spot as leader of the 34th Ward. Brady became party chairman in 1986.

Brady said he would leave it up to the city party to decide if it wants to support a candidate in the primary election for his seat. “We will get together and we will pick the person they think is best to serve,” he said.

But Brady did not think that selection would be any of the previously declared candidates: Lindy Li, Willie Singletary, Michele Lawrence, or Ahmad.

Instead, he suggested Richie Lazer might be a good fit for the job. Lazer, who serves as Mayor Kenney’s deputy mayor for labor, has been strongly rumored to be interested in seeking the seat since November.

Brady said reclaiming the chairmanship of the Administration Committee if Democrats retook the House was not a strong enough lure.

“How much blood do you need?” he asked. “I’m 72 years old. Am I going to be 82 years old? I don’t know.”

Staff writer Jeremy Roebuck contributed to this article.

OIC CEO Kevin Johnson jumps into PA-1 race on eve of Brady retirement

OIC CEO Kevin Johnson jumps into PA-1 race on eve of Brady retirement

Former Bright Hope Baptist Church Pastor Kevin Johnson announced he will run for the 1st Congressional District – a day before U.S. Rep. Bob Brady announced he would not seek another term in office.

Johnson sent out a campaign email on Tuesday, promoting a Friday kickoff event in North Philadelphia.

Johnson is currently the CEO of the Philadelphia Opportunities Industrialization Center, a storied job-training nonprofit based in North Philadelphia. The church he once led is also well known as one of the most politically influential houses of worship in a city where the black clergy wields considerable power.

He resigned from Bright Hope in 2014, amid questions about his compensation and the church’s financial entanglements, later starting his own congregation, Dare to Imagine Church, in West Philadelphia. He moved to OIC the following year Read More

Philly pastor, congregation aid Houston area church

Philly pastor, congregation aid Houston area church

John N. Mitchell Tribune Staff Writer Sep 1, 2017

As a native of Dallas, the first thing that crossed Pastor Kevin Johnson’s mind after Hurricane Harvey slammed into the southeastern coast of Texas was the safety of family and friends. And after he got the word — his people are well despite experiencing property damage — he jumped into action.

The pastor of Dare to Imagine Church at 6611 Ardleigh Street placed a call to his former Morehouse College classmate, Dr. Timothy Sloan, Pastor of St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church in Humble, TX, just outside of Houston, and asked how he and the congregation can help.

Read More