Call it Round Four in “the Battle of the Barrio."
In one corner is the undisputed champion of the 7th District, City Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, who has won election three times since 2007 without the endorsement of local ward leaders or the Democratic City Committee. In the other corner, State Rep. Angel Cruz, a longtime political sparring partner, who was just sworn in for his 10th two-year term in Harrisburg.
Cruz, who last week created a political action committee to challenge Quiñones-Sánchez in the May 21 primary, also leads the 7th Ward, which is part of her district. He has been at the heart of Democrats in the majority-Latino district denying her political support for more than a decade.
Even for Philadelphia Democrats, the pugilism in this district continues to be unusually punchy.
Cruz said he’d been approached by people in the community who want “real leadership."
“You need to have a leader where you don’t scold or spank people,” Cruz said. “I think I can unite this district and not divide it.”
Quiñones-Sánchez acknowledges past disputes but says she has matured politically while Cruz is now isolated in what she calls the barrio, the Spanish word for neighborhood.
“Do I have enemies? Yeah, but I’ve earned those,” she said. “His thing is, ‘I think I’m better than everybody.’ I always clarify that I’m better than him, I’m not better than everybody.”
Cruz and fellow district leaders put up Manny Morales to challenge Quiñones-Sánchez in the 2015 primary. Morales politically immolated after the discovery on his Facebook page of homophobic, anti-immigrant, and racist posts.
Quiñones-Sánchez reveled in all that, mocking Morales as Cruz’s “puppet.”
Two political action committees linked to Cruz admitted in 2016 to illegally coordinating with Morales' campaign, exceeding the city’s contributions limits and failing to report some contributions, in a settlement with the Philadelphia Board of Ethics. Morales followed in 2017 with his own Board of Ethics settlement.
This is a neighborhood fight for now. But could it grow bigger? Quiñones-Sánchez claims Cruz has been telling people he’ll have political backing from Mayor Jim Kenney and John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty, leader of the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council.
Cruz denies seeking support from Kenney or Dougherty.
Lauren Hitt, a spokesperson for Kenney’s reelection campaign, said he “has heard from many people who are considering bids for Council" but declined to give names. Dougherty spokesperson Frank Keel said the “sole focus” of Building Trades this year is getting Kenney reelected.
Philadelphia’s Republican City Committee has a second candidate for mayor, and two more potential candidates are mulling the race, but local party Chairman Michael Meehan wants more.
Daphne Goggins, the Republican leader of the 16th Ward in North Philadelphia, has filed as a candidate and plans to formally announce her run on her 56th birthday on Jan. 29.
You may recognize Goggins from her appearances on CNN, where her support for President Donald Trump was so fervent that she excused allegations of inappropriate behavior toward women and floated conspiracy theories, including one that called a “hoax” the violent clashes in Charlottesville, Va. in August 2017 that left one woman dead.
“I’m sick of people talking about how I’m a Trump supporter,” said the longtime community activist. “That’s not my life’s work.”
Meehan told us he is still meeting with people, recruiting for the mayor’s race. Defense attorney Billy Ciancaglini has already declared, while former City Council staffer Mark Cumberland and 2011 mayoral candidate John Featherman are still considering campaigns.
“While I love them all dearly, I still want to try to get someone who will be palatable to the people of Philadelphia,” Meehan said of his party’s prospective field of candidates.
Goggins responded to Meehan: “That’s because he doesn’t know me. He doesn’t have a clue who I am. He’s getting ready to meet me.”
Goggins spoke this week while walking around the Winchester Playground, a small building with basketball courts surrounded by vacant lots strewn with trash and refuse. She has been attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings at the playground since 2005 and recently celebrated 13 years free from her addiction to cocaine.
Goggins says she is committed to getting black residents of Philadelphia to back Republicans, “trying to change the dynamic of the vote and the ideology of the people of my community.” It’s an uphill battle. Just 3 percent of the 16th Ward’s voters are Republican. Trump took just 1 percent of the vote for president there in 2016 and the 2018 Republican candidates for governor and the U.S. Senate also took just 1 percent.
That’s life in politics. One minute, you’ve landed a tremendous hip-hop band like the Roots for your inauguration. The next, a suddenly famous sports mascot like the Flyers' Gritty is turning down your invitation.
Gov. Tom Wolf’s team reports that Gritty is “unfortunately” unable to attend. Probably got a big game that night, right? Nope. The Flyers are not taking to the ice Tuesday.
The Eagles' Swoop and the Phillie Phanatic will attend Wolf’s big party on Tuesday. Some mascots from Pittsburgh sports teams will be there too, but really, who cares about the Pirate Parrot or Iceberg from the Penguins?