NELSON DIAZ, a former city solicitor in Mayor John Street's administration, says he will declare his candidacy for mayor on Jan. 15.

Diaz, a former judge who also served as general counsel for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said public education will be "key" to his campaign.

Diaz, 67, said he did not think it was right to complain about problems with the city's public schools unless he joined the debate in the mayor's race.

He enters a crowded field in the May 19 Democratic primary election.

Diaz spoke yesterday, the first day of Pennsylvania Society, a gathering in New York City of the state's politicians and campaign donors.

"If schools work, the economy will come along with them," Diaz said after hearing rival candidates state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, Terry Gillen, Ken Trujillo and Lynne Abraham speak at an event hosted by the Forum for a Better Pennsylvania.

Diaz said he held a campaign fundraiser Thursday in New York and another on Wednesday in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Diaz predicted that he and Williams will be the only Democrats in the race who can draw the support of African-American voters.

Diaz said he has already met with the American Federation of Teachers and other labor unions, seeking support.

And he acknowledged that "independent expenditure groups," who by law can spend unlimited money in a race as long as they don't coordinate with a candidate, will play a big role.

"That's going to be the toughest part of the campaign," Diaz said of being financially competitive.

On Twitter: @ChrisBrennanDN

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