Temple alumnus Malcolm Kenyatta wins state House primary election

Kenyatta is the first openly gay person of color to win a state House primary in Pennsylvania.

Malcolm Kenyatta, a 2012 public communications alumnus, won the state House Democratic primary election for the 181st District on Tuesday. | RAMA KABA / FILE PHOTO

Malcolm Kenyatta, a 2012 public communication alumnus, won the state House Democratic primary election for the 181st District with more than 40 percent of the vote on Tuesday.

Kenyatta is the first openly gay person of color to win a state House primary in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Magazine reported.

Community residents rallied behind the North Philadelphia native, who won by about a 15-percent margin of the vote in the area which includes Main Campus. Kenyatta will face Milton Street, who ran unopposed to become the Republican nominee, in November’s general election.

Lewis Nash, a lifelong North Philadelphia resident and community advocate, finished second to Kenyatta with 26.61 percent of the vote. Alex Deering, Lewis Thomas III and Gilberto Gonzalez made up the remaining portion of the vote.

“When we got into this race in December, I had a lot of people who told me what type of campaign we [should] run,” said Kenyatta to a small crowd of campaign members during a victory speech late Tuesday, which was posted to Facebook. “They told me don’t talk about poor people in a district where a lot of people are not poor…You can’t spend a whole campaign talking about poor and working people…But that’s the type of campaign we ran, and we won.”

The candidate went on to thank campaign staff, volunteers, donors and State Rep. Curtis Thomas, the Democratic incumbent who will retire Nov. 30, 2018 after holding the seat for almost 30 years. Thomas, who is a relative of Kenyatta, formally endorsed Kenyatta at his retirement announcement event in April.

Kenyatta could not be immediately reached for comment.

His platform includes combating poverty by raising the minimum wage to $15, providing free public college for low-income families and expanding Philadelphia’s sanctuary city protections for undocumented immigrants.

Several residents said they hope Kenyatta will continue to run on the community-focused values he promoted during his campaign, like opposing the university’s proposed on-campus stadium.

“I’m trusting that he will stick with the no stadium piece…and do everything possible to ensure this doesn’t happen,” said Jackie Wiggins, a North Philadelphia resident who lives on 20th Street near Diamond and a leader of the Stadium Stompers. “I’m happy for him to have won. … My concern, once again, whoever runs and wins that they understand the stadium piece, which he does.”

“As a Temple alum [Kenyatta should] engage some of the other alumni to understand the position of those who are in opposition to [the stadium,]” she added.

A recent Temple Student Government survey showed more than 57 percent of students who responded do not support the construction of an on-campus stadium. No comparable survey has been sent to alumni.

The Rev. Renee McKenzie, a community leader and pastor of the Church of the Advocate on Diamond Street near 18th, said she knows Kenyatta will help the North Philadelphia community.

“I think he is a wonderful man, a wonderful person, who is absolutely committed to this community,” McKenzie said. “I’m looking forward to him doing an excellent job for North Philadelphia.”

“We certainly look for him to address the systemic issues, the poverty, all those kinds of things that affect this community in a powerful way,” she added. “I just expect Malcolm to be a strong advocate for this community because that’s what we need.”

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