Daphne Jenkins Goggins picked a place with a purpose when she was ready to speak in early 2019 about her plans to run for mayor of Philadelphia.
Ms. Goggins, who died Dec. 30 from COVID-19 at 57, asked a reporter to meet her outside a North Philadelphia recreation center where she had attended Narcotics Anonymous meetings since 2005, when she began recovery from an addiction to cocaine.
She was an open book — about herself and addiction, the surrounding community where she served as a Republican ward leader despite just 3% of the residents belonging to the party, and her belief that Black voters should walk away from the city’s dominant Democratic Party.
But the people who knew her best saw another side — her tireless work in the community, a constant effort to help the neediest residents of the city.
Maurice Jenkins, the oldest of her three sons, recalled moving with his mother to public housing in West Philadelphia and then North Philadelphia, where she organized drill teams, coached basketball, coordinated field trips, and helped people of all ages learn to read.
She also encouraged people to stop using drugs, even as her own addiction continued.
“My mom was doing all this stuff while she had her own addiction,” he said. “Nobody knew because she was doing all this stuff.”
Ms. Goggins served as Republican leader of North Philadelphia’s 16th Ward while also serving as a committee member in the nearby 13th Ward, which is lead by Carnel Harley. He recalled her as “a true fighter for our community and our children.” Each August, Ms. Goggins organized a drive to give backpacks to children starting school. Each December there was a toy drive for Christmas.
“That was her passion, the kids,” Harley said. “She might have had the biggest mouth in the room. She also has the biggest heart.”
Ms. Goggins worked on Beth Grossman’s 2017 Republican campaign for district attorney. Grossman recalled people joking that Ms. Goggins, with $20, could figure out how to buy ice cream for every child in North Philadelphia.
“No task was too small,” Grossman said. “No task was too big. She just loved her party.”
An interview with the conservative website The Daily Caller further complicated her campaign. She told the website she received federal disability payments for nearly a decade after being diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder during her recovery from addiction.
Again, Ms. Goggins was an open book, saying Philadelphia voters could decide if they wanted a mayor who had experienced addiction and mental illness. She also suggested it was all part of God’s plan for her and the city.
Ms. Goggins then fell short of the number of signatures needed on nomination petitions to be listed on the 2019 primary election ballot. An avid user of social media, she broadcast a Facebook Live video about her exit from the race, complaining that the local party was not ready to embrace a Black candidate.
Ms. Goggins was not the sort to slip quietly to the sidelines. She continued to swim in the slipstream of national politics. Once anxious about travel, she broadcast her visits to the White House on Facebook and boarded airplanes to attend Trump campaign rallies.
She became state director in Pennsylvania for Blexit, a movement encouraging Black voters to join the Republican Party. And she was outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center in the days after Election Day last November, joining with other Trump supporters who made false claims about voter fraud.
“She turned it into more for herself,” friend and colleague Laura Beth Melchiore said of the 2019 campaign disappointment. “You can always parlay the run. You meet a lot of people. She was going to D.C. a lot.”
Ms. Goggins contracted COVID-19 not long after the election and was hospitalized in mid-November, her son said. She seemed to rebound but then came down with pneumonia in early December. Doctors prepared to put her on a ventilator.
“They said the last thing she said was she wanted to fight,” Maurice Jenkins recalled.