This year, voters in the 8th State Senatorial District are faced with an unfamiliar task: the need to make a choice in a primary. The district, covering West Philadelphia, parts of Delaware County, and a small chunk of South Philadelphia, is about 80% Democratic, rendering the general election all but a formality. The incumbent, State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, has run mostly unopposed in primaries since his election in 1998.
But Williams is facing a challenger this time: union organizer and public school teacher Paul Prescod.
Overall, the voters of the 8th District have two good options to choose from. Williams is experienced, knows the district (which his father served as well), and has cachet in statewide Democratic politics as a senior legislator. He has shown the ability to evolve on issues, such as introducing legislation to authorize syringe services programs statewide after expressing skepticism that harm reduction saves lives (it does).
But it is Prescod, because of his grassroots energy and unrelenting commitment to public education, who gets our endorsement.
He graduated from Temple University and joined the Philadelphia School District as a teacher. Since his time as a student at Temple, Prescod has embedded himself with organized labor. He stood shoulder to shoulder on picket lines with workers, and the bonds forged through that solidarity led to a slew of noteworthy endorsements for a first-time candidate — including one from the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.
Prescod has brought excitement to an otherwise dormant race — running a street-level campaign and knocking on as many doors as possible. His experience working in local schools makes him distinctly positioned to advocate for the needs of Philadelphia’s students and teachers. The realities of underfunded schools aren’t an issue Prescod learned about from reading the newspaper or watching episodes of Abbott Elementary; he has been living it.
At a time when public school funding is under attack, one of the major points of differentiation for this board between the two candidates was their position on so-called school choice.
Williams has long advocated for alternatives to public education. This position has made him an ally of Jeff Yass, the managing director of a Bala Cynwyd-based financial firm and a Republican mega-donor.
Prescod, on the other hand, is unabashedly pro-public education and wants the major institutions in our city (such as the “eds-and-meds” community) to pay more to support local schools.
This distinction between the two candidates is a major factor in what tilted the balance toward Prescod for this board, and we hope for voters as well.
Far from running a one-issue campaign, Prescod also has the support of the urbanist political action group 5th Square. He told this board that he would be interested in joining the Senate’s Transportation Committee, which currently has no representatives from Philadelphia. We hope to see him on that committee next winter, helping to craft climate-conscious transportation policy in the state.
During a meeting with the board, Prescod also discussed the need to reform the criminal justice system as well as getting at the source of weapons that are killing Philadelphians, such as untraceable “ghost guns.”
Anthony Hardy Williams deserves a standing ovation for dedicating decades of his life to public service. But it is time for a change. Prescod would bring a new energy to the state Senate — energy to fight for public education, for infrastructure that confronts the climate crisis, and for workers’ rights.