November’s general election in Philly has the looks of a sleeper. Given the city’s preponderance of registered Democratic voters, the insurgent Democratic nominees in the two higher profile races – Larry Krasner for district attorney and Rebecca Rhynhart for city controller – will likely coast to victory against their minority party challengers.
But in the midst of this political lull, candidates are already throwing their hats in the ring for next year when a spate of state and national legislators from Philly are up for reelection.
State Rep. John Taylor, one of two Republican politicians representing Philly in Harrisburg, will likely face off against a familiar face next year – one among the growing list of contested PA House elections.
Democrat Joe Hohenstein said he’s inching toward a rematch with Taylor, a three-decade incumbent whose district covers parts of the River Wards and the lower Northeast. At a community event in Frankford last weekend, Hohenstein told a reporter rematch is likely in the cards for him.
“I haven’t 100 percent made a decision, but I think I will,” Hohenstein said. “There will be a more formal announcement around Labor Day. I’m definitely leaning toward it. The neighborhoods need something different. They keep getting more of the same.”
Last year, Hohenstein, an immigration lawyer with the firm of Landau, Hess, Simon & Choi, took nearly 45 percent of the vote against Taylor, who was first elected in 1984. Hohenstein won four of the district’s seven wards, but Taylor prevailed by more than 2,600 votes.
Hohenstein ran unopposed in last year’s primary, but might not have that luxury next year: Sean Patrick Wayland, a young Iraq War veteran and aspiring legislator, is also expected to seek the Democratic nomination. Wayland has already launched a Crowdpac to start seeding his campaign.
A South Philly melee?
Taylor likely won’t be the only long-seated incumbent to face opposition next year.
A showdown is brewing in the 184th House District, which covers the eastern half of South Philadelphia. City&State PA has reported two potential challengers have already indicated they want to face off against longtime Rep. Bill Keller: Nicholas DiDonato, Jr., a retired police detective, and Elizabeth Fiedler, a former WHYY reporter.
Asked about the early pool of candidates, Wyatt stressed that it’s too early to gauge public sentiment about the race, but he’s excited by the expressed interest.
“The more people stepping up and wanting to serve, the better,” Wyatt said, in a phone interview.
DiDonato has already criticized his opponent of being “invisible for 24 years” as an elected official. On her public Facebook page, Fiedler criticized a union-backed charter school where Keller sits on the board.
Wyatt, in contrast, said he is enthusiastic about the gathering insurgency within Philly’s Democratic party system.
“If you look at the spring election results, you see a pretty clear message,” he said.
In Center City, former Senate aide Ben Waxman confirmed intentions for a rematch against Rep. Brian Sims next year, according to City&State PA. Following a contentious 2016 campaign, Sims triumphed over Waxman by just 6 points. Following news of Waxman challenging him again, Sims responded with a jab on his widely followed Facebook page that referenced a photo in which Waxman posed with Eric Trump.
Perhaps the most high-stakes race involves a potential rumble for U.S. Rep. and Democratic City Committee Chairman Bob Brady. Brady came under fire recently after news broke that a staffer for Jimmie Moore, Brady’s 2012 primary challenger, pleaded guilty to participating in a scheme to pay Moore to drop out of the race.
“If we want better government, we have to elect better leaders,” Woodard said in a statement. “I’ll make a decision in the next few weeks after talking with close friends and family.”
Woodard’s position is not uncommon. It is early, and at this stage, many would-be candidates are still in the consultation phase – talking with their advisors and perhaps even conducting internal polls to gauge their chances at victory.
There are a number of additional pols in Philly – from Rep. Rosita Youngblood to state Sen. Christine Tartaglione – who are up for reelection next year, and who may also see challengers emerging from the shadows in the coming months.
Max Marin is a reporter for Philadelphia Weekly, where this story first appeared.
Tom Waring from the Northeast Times contributed to this report.