Maggie Borski, a 24-year-old Temple law student, is looking to distinguish herself in a Northeast Philly state House primary that is said to have nearly a dozen possible candidates, all eager to succeed the 177th District’s retiring GOP Rep. John Taylor.
But the Democrat says she has at least one advantage in a race that’s likely to attract more candidates named “Sean” than female contenders.
“I just want to point out that I’m the only (declared) female candidate – and only 20 percent of the General Assembly is made up of women,” she said last week. “And there’s a lot that Pennsylvania could improve upon – we’ve got to start putting women in a place of leadership, promoting equal pay and even just health care and child care for women.”
She has other edges in the crowded race. She will enjoy the support of her father, longtime U.S. Rep. Bob Borski, who held office from 1983 to 2003. She also counts former Gov. Ed Rendell as a backer – the latest in a string of races where Rendell is trying to play kingmaker by supporting younger, progressive upstarts. Her brother works for Treasurer Joe Torsella and former Philadelphia DA candidate Joe Khan is also supporting her bid.
Borski is running on familiar liberal planks: pro-education funding, pro-diversionary court for opioid users and, despite the trades backing another candidate, she’s vocal about her union support.
She’s also a proponent of sanctuary cities like Philadelphia, where law enforcement has refused to detain individuals suspected of immigration violations on behalf of federal authorities. It’s an issue that helped local GOP state Rep. Martina White win votes in the Northeast’s more Republican-leaning neighborhoods.
“I went to the same grade school as Martina. I know her. I give her a lot of credit, but ideologically, we’re pretty different,” Borski said. “I think being a sanctuary city is for the best. Whoever is causing crimes, there are people who are from the US and there’s a handful of people who aren’t.”
In addition to graduating from law school right around the primary – the Philly native is likely to face some stiff competition: A bevy of local ward leaders and council staffers are said to be considering runs. One candidate, bar owner, Sean Kilkenny, has already scored the endorsement of the influential building trades, despite carrying baggage from a racially charged T-shirt scandal in 2008.
The seat, which has not been contested since the 1980s, has attracted a staggering level number of possible contenders for a seat that has trended blue during Taylor’s time in office: no fewer than four men named “Sean” are said to be interested and two even have identical names.
Borski, Kilkenny; immigration lawyer Joe Hohenstein, who ran against Taylor last year; Iraq war vet Sean Patrick Wayland; and Justin Salmasi, a sales exec, are all declared.
But the list of individuals possibly eyeing a run goes on.
Tom Forkin, a ward chair and aide to state Rep. Mike Driscoll; community activist Dan Martino; ward leaders Harry Enggasser and Dan Savage; Patty-Pat Kozlowski, a Parks and Recreation employee; and Sean K. McMonagle, an aide to Councilman Mark Squilla, are all said to be interested. Another man, also named Sean McMonagle, who described himself as the head of the seemingly non-existent “Philadelphia Community Development Corporation” also told City&State PA he intended to run.
Given Taylor’s long legacy as a popular Republican in a Democratic city, 55th Ward leader Chris Vogler; Brian Caputo, a onetime aide to Councilman Brian O’Neill; and community activist Pete Smith are all said to be considering a shot for the GOP nomination in the 177th.