Working Families Party’s Jarrett Smith announces run for Philly City Commissioner
Smith kicked off his campaign launch at Calvary United Methodist Church in West Philadelphia.
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The Pennsylvania Working Families Party has another candidate running for public office in Philadelphia, as Jarrett Smith officially launched his bid for Philadelphia City Commissioner earlier in the afternoon of Saturday, Jan. 21, at Calvary United Methodist Church in West Philadelphia.
Smith, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare’s top lobbyist, is vying for one of three seats to administer Philly’s elections.
Commissioners oversee elections and voter registration, with one of the three at-large seats reserved specifically for a minority party like the WFP. Smith’s run promises to be the largest, most robust campaign in history to challenge the Republican Party’s control of the seat.
Smith’s launch is the first time a Working Families Party Run member has run for City Commissioner, setting up a very likely faceoff between WFP and the Republican Party, the first time a serious challenge for the minority-party city commissioner seat has occurred.
"This year, we have an opportunity to write a new chapter for local democracy in Philadelphia," said Smith.
The launch included food, music, and guest speakers such as Senator Nikil Saval, District Attorney Larry Krasner, Wendell Young, President of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, Rev. Nicolas O’Rourke, WFP City Council Candidate, Representative Malcolm Kenyatta, with supporters from local labor and progressive movements.
"We can’t rely on a two-party system running our elections when one of those parties wants to silence our voices and override our votes," said Saval. "The status quo has given Philadelphia a twenty-percent turnout rate, and voters deserve better. It's time to get the anti-democratic Republican Party out of our elections and bring Working Families in."
A queer and biracial person, Smith has long been involved in several advocacy efforts that include working to pass Good Cause Eviction in the city, and helped build a tenant union in West Philly.
“We often tell people in politics that in order to run for office, you have to sacrifice some part of yourself, whether it be your queerness, your Blackness, your background, your politics, or some other crucial part of your identity. But that's not who I am,” he added.
In his most recent role as Legislative Director for SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, he battled with right-wing attacks against unions as well as advocated for workers over issues like safe staffing and support for nursing home workers.
"As an organizer, I've seen first-hand how hard it is to vote in this city. As a City Commissioner, I'll fight against disinformation campaigns, make voting accessible for immigrant and marginalized communities, and work with community groups on year-round voter education in our neighborhoods," Smith said.
He also led voter education and mobilization efforts in federal, state, and municipal elections, including during WFP Councilmember Kendra Brooks' historic victory in 2019, which snatched an at-large spot from Republicans for the first time ever.
Smith talked about being SEIU Healthcare’s Legislative Director, his life spent in public service and organizing, as well as plans for the office if elected.
“I want to transform the city commissioner's office into an organizing hub, where the community organizations that are on the ground and are marginalized communities have the tools and the resources that they need to effectively mobilize our blocks, and that they are involved in the decision making process around how we designed our election,” he said.
Smith’s work has garnered the attention of local media as he was recently featured in City and State PA’s Government Relations Power 100.
“For years, Jarrett has been in the trenches fighting for workers and mobilizing voters,” said Wendell Young, President of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776. “Everyday Philadelphians deserve a champion for working people on the city commission, and that’s why we’re all in for Jarrett.”
If elected, the WFP will have once again made history, just like Councilmember Kendra Brooks did in 2019 when she beat out Republicans to win one of two minority party seats on the City Council.
Brooks is now running for reelection, with city council candidate Rev. Nicolas O’Rourke in a race of his own, and now Smith’s bid for commissioner, all three are seeking to make the WFP the dominant minority party in Philly’s city government.
“Our lives, our futures, and our children are too important to let Republicans have any say in how we run our elections. But there's another way, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to transform how we run our elections in Philadelphia, so that they work for all of us, not just the privileged,” Smith said.