City&State PA reported in October that rumors were circulating that Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce staffer and community organizer Malcolm Kenyatta would run for the city’s 181st state House District with the blessing of incumbent Rep. Curtis Thomas.
The gist was that Thomas would retire and back the young candidate’s campaign. Indeed, late last week, Kenyatta entered the typically low-wattage race with a glossy, professionally shot video, and with former Gov. Ed Rendell and several prominent local pastors co-chairing his campaign.
But the 15-term incumbent has still refused to confirm or deny that he’ll stand for reelection – and anonymous sources disputed Thomas’ retirement plan.
Following Kenyatta’s announcement, a Thomas surrogate offered unsolicited praise for a man who is now Thomas’ challenger.
“The Representative does not have a comment at this time,” said Maria Beemer, who identified herself as Thomas’ campaign spokesperson, on Friday. “But as I said before, the Representative knows of the work Malcolm has done in the district and is very fond of him.”
Beemer had made similar comments previously, suggesting that if Thomas were to retire, he would likely back Kenyatta. However, Thomas, through Beemer, refused to speak to reporters directly about his plans for 2018 and whether he would seek a 16th term in office.
In his campaign announcement, Kenyatta promised to work to make government more accountable to “disadvantaged, low-income families” and promoted his support for school funding.
The race for the district, which covers both Temple University and some of North Philadelphia’s poorest neighborhoods has attracted other challengers.
Philadelphia Magazine reported that openly gay United Way exec Alex Deering was also taking a shot at the district seat.
Lewis Nash, a neighborhood pastor, announced his candidacy earlier in the year. In campaign videos, he has talked openly about lacking the campaign funding to “buy” ward leaders. In another campaign video, he asserts that he helped bring “$240 million” in development to the district through his work at a neighborhood nonprofit.
Neither Nash or Deering immediately responded to requests for comment.
Lewis Thomas III, who ran against Thomas in 2010 and recently helped managed Teresa Carr Deni’s ill-fated campaign for Philadelphia district attorney, wrote City&State PA to say he will announce his candidacy in January. He claimed that Rep. Thomas, who is no relation, had also informed him that he would retire – and offered his support.
“I don’t really understand the games that Thomas plays with people,” he said in a phone interview, on Monday. “He sat down with me back in June and told us that he would be retiring and he wanted to let me know that. Then I heard he has had similar conversations with other people. I’m not sure exactly what is going on.”
Lewis Thomas, who landed in hot water in 2015 after misrepresenting his career accomplishments, said he would run on a platform of demanding more jobs and scholarships from Temple University for neighborhood residents.