The Rev. Kevin Johnson backs out of mayoral bid

Local pastor backs out of race after claims he used ties to place kids in top public school.

The Rev. Kevin Johnson, the pastor of Bright Hope Baptist church on 12th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue and one of the partners in the development of the $100 million, 14-story student housing complex  The View at Montgomery, announced he will not be running for mayor in 2015, weeks after saying he was considering a run. 

In late January, Johnson sent an email out to his supporters declaring his intention to focus on family matters rather than a campaign, telling his officers that he was not running.

“For those of you who know [my wife] Kimya and me, you know that our first priority is our family and the second is the congregation at Bright Hope Baptist Church,” the email read. “While I will continue to serve in various capacities in our great city, at this time, my responsibilities as a father and pastor will be my focus.”

Johnson, who has lived in the city for seven years, told the Daily News in an article published on Jan. 14 that he was forming an exploratory committee for a possible mayoral run. Those plans were sidelined, however, when the Daily News published an article on Jan. 28 that detailed allegations that Johnson had used connections with then-Superintendent Arlene Ackerman to get his children placed in the prestigious Penn Alexander School, outside the Johnsons’ home school district in Overbrook.

Johnson is the fifth pastor of the Bright Hope Baptist Church, a prominent church in North Philadelphia that has been led by former U.S. Rep. William Herbet Gray III.

In 2008, the John Wanamaker Middle School property was purchased from the School District of Philadelphia by the church in a partnership with the Goldenberg Group for $10.75 million, which allowed the latter to build The View at Montgomery, a $100 million student housing complex set to be open in the fall.

The school district accepted the bid from the Bridge of Hope Community Development and the Goldenberg Group with the understanding that it would be used for a school run by the church, a community center for job training and other needs of North Philadelphia.

Now the financial agreement between the Bridge of Hope Community Development and the Goldenberg Group has been restructured to help the church, Kevin Trapper, vice president  of Goldenberg Group, said.

The money paid by the Goldenberg Group to the Bridge of Hope Community Development might be used to build a “new-vision” school on another property in North Philadelphia while Kenneth Goldenberg, president and CEO of Goldenberg Group, has announced he is looking to build a hotel on the property in addition to the student housing complex.

Johnson did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

With Johnson out of the race, another name mentioned with ties to the Temple area is City Council President Darrell Clarke, whose 5th District encompasses parts of Main Campus and most of the Templetown neighborhood. Clarke has largely been considered the front-runner. Mayor Nutter and his predecessor John Street were both city council president before being elected mayor.

The Democratic primary for the city-wide election – which has been won by a member of the party every year since 1952 – will be held on May 19, 2015.

Sarai Flores can be reached at

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