In the hotly contested race for Philly mayor, Latinos, national and local, are chiming in
Democrats Cherelle Parker and Helen Gym have been the only candidates to earn endorsements from Latinos.
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Helen Gym learned this week she was endorsed by U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortéz, likely earning one of the more high-profile backings — a Latina Congresswoman — in the race for Philly Mayor.
Ocasio-Cortéz’s announcement follows a series of competing endorsements from local, institutional Latino figures supporting Cherelle Parker, a fellow Democrat, signaling a split between national and local political Latino figures.
“Helen isn’t afraid to take on tough fights or go up against big special interests,” New York Rep. Ocasio-Coréz said in a statement, pointing at Gym’s general resume in City Hall, saying she was “proud to endorse her.”
This adds to Gym’s endorsement slate by Latino-led organizations — including Make the Road Action and United We Dream Action — which serve as political arms for immigration advocacy groups. More recently, she received favorable remarks in the form of an endorsement from newly-minted Congressman Greg Casar of Texas.
Casar, in his endorsement Monday, said, “Helen Gym and I both cut our teeth as community organizers and local elected officials.”
But Gym isn’t the only competitor in the election whose candidacy flutters with Latino support.
Over the last few months, Parker has convinced Philly’s Latino old guard to put their years-spanning grievances aside to coalesce around her candidacy, notably picking up steam as one of the nominees with fewer resources.
Some of the names whose support Parker can count on are State Representatives José Giral, Danilo Burgos, and retired Rep. Ben Ramos, whose son, Neftali Ramos, works as political director for the Parker campaign and has been attributed with much of the credit surrounding these endorsements.
Cherelle Parker’s lived experience
Most recently, Maria Quiñones Sánchez told AL DÍA News in an exclusive interview that she would back Cherelle Parker for mayor, citing her lived experience best qualifies her to take on the weight of her Agenda Latina.
Quiñones Sánchez was the second former mayoral candidate to announce an endorsement and suspended her campaign because of the millions flooding the field. As of today, she also became the second former mayoral candidate to line up behind Parker two weeks before the primary election after Derek Green’s announcement.
“I felt it was important that the next mayor knows, feels, and has lived the challenges but also understands the opportunities for the city. Cherelle Parker represents the person closest align to why I made the decision to run for mayor and why she should be mayor,” Quiñones Sánchez told AL DÍA.
Parker, like Quiñones Sánchez, was a protégé of Marian Tasco, who “represented the progressive movement of the 80s and 90s in the city of Philadelphia.”
“We share many of our experiences, how we entered politics, who we learned from and who we value, and their ability to create a really broad base coalition,” Quiñones Sánchez said.
Of the other candidates she sought to interview, Quiñones Sánchez said she was left with the impression that their approaches fell short of awareness and urgency to not only lead a diverse populace but to bring them into the mayor’s cabinet.
“When you come from a historically marginalized community, and you get into government, you understand and value how important it is to have access for people to feel included and to have real access,” she said.
During her 14-year City Council incumbency, Quiñones Sánchez led city initiatives to expand government access in an effort to reach broader communities — including a charter amendment to expand language access services and a municipal identification program for undocumented immigrants and returning citizens, taking a cue from how other city’s navigated city service gaps.
In the former, Quiñones Sánchez helped pass the bill with the help of Gym, who co-sponsored the bill at the time, along with Councilmember Curtis Jones.
At a recent forum, before Quiñones Sánchez and Green suspended their campaigns, candidates were asked what their efforts to expand government services would look like at work. Quiñones Sánchez said that candidates “should just enforce my law,” especially in regards to language access.
“[Cherelle Parker] gets that we need to have a government that reflects the constituencies. And that language piece is one small component of having a government that serves everyone,” said Quiñones Sánchez
Still, many — if not all — of Parker’s Latino backers are yet to respond to criticism Parker has received over constitutional stop-and-frisk, otherwise known as a Terry Stop, a highly-controversial method of policing where officers can pat down a subject if there is reasonable suspicion “that an individual is armed, engaged, or about to be engaged, in criminal conduct.”
Many in passing agree that District 7’s challenges with recurring violent incidents and the opioid crisis require a forceful police approach.
Indeed, Councilmember Quetcy Lozada, who succeeded Quiñones Sánchez after serving as her Chief of Staff for the entirety of her term, has said in multiple interviews with AL DÍA that she believes in policing and enforcement.
This may set the tone for how the next mayor will need to negotiate with Lozada if the incoming administration plans to involve her in whatever tactic is to be employed.
Quiñones Sánchez, pressed about whether she agrees with Parker’s stance on policing, said, “It’s important that folks understand that there is no way we can have 100% alignment on all the issues. My approach to Kensington is slightly different.”
But different is a generous understatement. Quiñones Sánchez public safety platforms did include reforms to the police department, but it also brought multiple City operations — Streets, the water department, License & Inspections, and installing security cameras — among other ideas to wrap around a subject committing a crime.
“She's open to listening and hearing my perspective on it,” Quiñones Sánchez emphasized. “There's no one candidate that anybody can be 100% aligned with. This is about who can lead, who can convene, and who is willing to listen before making decisions.”
“I think some folks are ideology-based on one perspective because they don't know. Again, if you've never lived in a community filled with crime, with poverty, the conversation is very different,” she said.