Curtis Thomas, the state representative for 181st District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives since 1988, announced that he will not be running for reelection and endorsed Malcolm Kenyatta for his seat today at Mt. Olive Holy Temple in North Philadelphia.
Thomas has represented the 181st District, which is where Temple is located, for almost 30 years. He will not seek reelection for health reasons, and will officially retire on Nov. 30, 2018. Thomas will return to consulting as an attorney.
“Because of my health, I will retiring in November,” Thomas said. “I’m standing here with 36 years of service inside the government. I could not replace those years with anything that I would have enjoyed more, I have enjoyed serving you.”
State Rep. Curtis Thomas for the 181st district announces his retirement, effective November 2018. Thomas been in office for nearly 30 years pic.twitter.com/NhXfo3Dl8B
— Lindsay Bowen (@lindsay_bow) April 6, 2018
Former Pennsylvania Governor and former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell gave a brief speech praising Thomas for his “integrity, courage and intelligence.”
“As mayor, we were dependent on the Philadelphia delegation to get things done for us in Harrisburg, and Curt was without a doubt the most dependable person to go to to get things done,” Rendell said. “When I was governor, he would constantly speak about what we were trying to do in a passionate, effective and forceful way.”
Rendell said that he imagined if God was an African American, “he would look and sound like Curtis Thomas.”
Former PA governor and Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell speaking at state Rep. Curtis Thomas’ retirement announcement pic.twitter.com/OJlS4bYZZF
— Lindsay Bowen (@lindsay_bow) April 6, 2018
Rendell also endorsed Kenyatta to fill Thomas’ seat.
Kenyatta, a 2012 public communication alumnus, is running for Thomas’ seat alongside four Democrats and one Republican. He said he is humbled to be endorsed by Thomas and Rendell, but realizes there are big shoes to fill.
“You have somebody who has served this community for such a long time with dedication, tenacity, but I think what the governor said, the secret ingredient was his integrity,” Kenyatta said. “Ultimately, that is what you want from your elected officials, people that you can trust and take that responsibility seriously.”
Former Republican state Sen. Earl Baker, spoke about his relationship to Thomas and how they were able to work together despite belonging to opposing political parties.
“I’m a suburban Republican, how did I establish a relationship with Curtis Thomas, an urban Democrat? It’s because we respect each other, and we worked together as Democrats and Republicans in Harrisburg,” Baker said. “The line down the middle of the House is very firm, and very few people cross it, but I was honored to work with Curtis on a healthcare bill.”
Thomas discussed the highlights of his career, including his Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund law, which allows Philadelphia to raise money to restore existing buildings, new buildings and emergency rental assistance.
He also thanked his supporters, his colleagues and his family, his sons Kareem Thomas and Salim Thomas and sister Geraldine Thomas.
Curtis Thomas retires in sadness, he said. He served as a law clerk in the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare Office for four years and later returned to Pennsylvania to serve as a law clerk in Harrisburg for two years. Thomas was urged by community residents to run, and was elected as state representative for the 181st District in 1988.
“I have not had the kind of support I would have liked to have had [in Harrisburg], but because of you, I have been able to run 14 times and win support three or four times past my opponents,” he added. “I thank each and everyone of you for having been there for me from the beginning.”
About 50 community residents were in attendance, including the Rev. Mary Moore at Mount Tabor African Methodist Episcopal Church, who has supported Thomas from the beginning of his career and helped him to get elected.
Curtis Thomas helped to develop and plan the Mt. Sabor Senior Cyber Village at Moore’s church, a center that houses seniors with limited economic resources.
“Curtis is a worker, and he has passion to help the young people, the community and he brings life to seniors,” Moore said. “I’m excited that he’s deciding to take some time to enjoy the rest of his life.”