Community members, politicians and organization leaders gathered in Morris Chapel Baptist Church Saturday morning to hear state Rep. W. Curtis Thomas officially announce his candidacy for re-election.
Thomas is running for representative of the 181st district in North Philadelphia, which includes most of Main Campus. He has been representative of the area since 1989.
Within the wood-paneled walls, the excitement for the campaign from Thomas’ supporters arrived before he did. Campaign volunteers posed for pictures, holding up campaign signs and shared the different projects and organizations they were participating in.
“He’s done an excellent job, and a job that no one else wants to do,” El Amor M. Brawne Ali, the leader of the 37th Democratic Ward, told a crowd of about 30. “Now we have to get our job done so he can get [elected and] get his job done.”
Thomas’ platform focuses on solving multiple problems through education reform, which have been emphasized in his past platforms as well. He plans to bring STEM and building and trade programs into all kindergarten through eighth-grade schools in his district.
“If [people] don’t want to go to college, that should be okay,” Thomas said. “They shouldn’t be seen as giving up and they should be able to have job training. If you believe in education, you believe in decent jobs, decent benefits, decent wages and a decent community.”
Thomas said higher education was on his list of priorities and that the current budget impasse in Harrisburg is a result of a “structural deficit.”
“Initiatives were funded with one-time fixes,” he said.
“We have to get the universities back on strong footing to prevent a tuition hike, and in order to [do that] we have to raise revenue,” Thomas added.
Malcolm Kenyatta, alumnus and coordinator for member engagement in the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, is serving as a volunteer on Thomas’ campaign.
“He’s committed to showing that this community is just so much more than what people are predisposed to see,” Kenyatta said. “It’s tough to get a representative that isn’t full of the preconceived notions of the area. It’s important to change the image and stereotypes.”
Many of Thomas’ supporters said he fights for the community and its voice in city and university organizations.
“He’s a proven people fighter,” said Sheila Armstrong, assistant to the Field Director in Thomas’ campaign. Armstrong spent the last 10 years working on state Rep. Rosita Youngblood’s campaign, but switched to Thomas’ campaign because Youngblood is running unopposed this election.
Armstrong is also the aunt of Duval DeShields, a 14-year-old Dunbar Elementary School student who, police said, was fatally shot last October on 10th Street near Thompson.
Thomas faces Democrat Kenneth Walker, a North Philadelphia native, who also raced against him in 2014.
“People will say I’m not really opposed,” Thomas said. “But I treat all opposition the same—they’re credible, and they have a right to run.”
Thomas added in his speech that he plans to work on raising the minimum wage and expanding public health and wellness services to families.
He told The Temple News he opposes the university’s proposed on-campus stadium.
“Until there’s better communication and understanding between the community and Temple, my stance is ‘no,’” he said.
Armstrong said the platform includes working on green energy to create jobs along with sustainability, improving public safety with more lighting and police and raising awareness of cybersafety.
The first election will be held Tuesday, April 26.
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