Freshman Rep Wants Another Term
Northeast Times Newsweekly
Freshman rep wants
another term . . .
By Tom Waring
Times Staff Writer
There were a few underlying themes on Saturday as state Rep. Tony Payton kicked off his re-election bid. First, his supporters agreed that former Rep. Bill Rieger did a lousy job representing the 179th Legislative District for 40 years. Second, they praised Payton’s work in his 14 months on the job. And third, they were incredulous that local Democratic ward leaders would endorse a challenger to the 27-year-old incumbent in the April 22 primary.
State Rep. Dwight Evans described Payton as part of a new generation of leaders and said the Democratic Party likes to "eat its young." "There’s no reason Tony should have this challenge," said Evans, who was elected in 1980 by beating an incumbent in a primary.
Payton announced that he was running for a third term at the Northeast Boys and Girls Club in Frankford. He’ll face Guy Lewis, a nurse from Frankord, in the primary. Lewis has the backing of ward leaders Dan Savage, Bill Dolbow and Marge Tartaglione, along with state Sen. Tina Tartaglione, the ward leader’s daughter.
To counter the ward leaders’ backing of Lewis, the Payton campaign showcased its support among elected officials. Besides Evans, the crowd included state Reps. Angel Cruz, Bryan Lentz and Harold James, state Sen. Shirley Kitchen, City Councilmen Bill Green and Curtis Jones and Councilwomen Maria Quinones-Sanchez and Blondell Reynolds Brown.
Others in attendance included Steve Blackburn, director of Frankford Family Support Services; Barry Howell, president of Northwood Civic Association; Seth Williams, a once and likely future candidate for district attorney; and Emilio Vazquez, Payton’s opponent in the 2006 primary.
Vazquez was the endorsed candidate two years ago but was removed from the ballot for failing to complete a financial disclosure form. Ward leaders engineered a write-in campaign, but Payton prevailed by 19 votes.
Payton, who lives on Bridge Street in Frankford, submitted about 2,000 signatures to get on the ballot. He described himself as the candidate of change and thanked "forward-thinking" ward leaders Tom Logan, Elaine Tomlin and Shirley Gregory for supporting him.
The district includes Frankford, Northwood, Oxford Circle, Olney, Feltonville and Hunting Park. There are 22 divisions in the district with the wards backing Payton. There are 33 divisions in the wards where Lewis has support. Payton thinks he’ll win. As for his opponent’s prime sponsors, he says, "Their time is over."
Lentz, a former Philadelphia assistant district attorney who represents a district in Delaware County, labeled the contest as "good vs. evil." Green, Jones and Quinones-Sanchez all noted that they did not have party backing in the 2007 primary but were elected to Council anyway. "People, at the end of the day, make their choices," said Quinones-Sanchez, who ousted Savage in the 7th Councilmanic District.
Green praised Payton for sponsoring a bill that would give free tuition to state universities for any student who has a 3.0 grade-point average and 90-percent attendance. Reynolds Brown credited him with proposing the creation of a statewide youth commission modeled after one recently implemented in Philadelphia. Green believes voters will pay more attention to a candidate’s record than a ward leader’s recommendation. "Good Democrats are going to get elected," he said.
Payton will actually be on the ballot twice. He is running in the 1st Congressional District as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. He is committed to Barack Obama and appears in a television commercial for the Illinois senator.
The freshman lawmaker believes his office has provided outstanding constituent services, something he said Rieger did not. His staff has offered assistance to residents on issues such as housing, financial planning and job placement, and the incumbent wants two more years to build on that.
"We’re just getting warmed up," he said.
Payton would like to see his scholarship bill become law this year and hopes there is movement on the issue of universal health care.
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org