State Rep. John Taylor (R-177th dist.) and Democrat Joe Hohenstein are Northwood neighbors, but their campaign is getting heated in the final week.
Taylor, first elected in 1984, describes Hohenstein as “an immigration lawyer who defends terrorists to stop their deportation,” according to newspaper ads.
Hohenstein described the cases as “ancient history” and accused Taylor of running the ads to distance himself from his votes on abortion and connection to the scandal-plagued Philadelphia Parking Authority.
Still, Taylor’s ads cite two illegal immigrants whom Hohenstein represented, declaring his opponent “protects terrorists for a living & wants to be our state representative? Is he kidding us?”
Hohenstein, though, said he was working for a nonprofit when he represented those two men. Lawyers don’t always get to choose whom they represent, and suggested that Taylor might have represented unsavory characters over the years.
“A whole lot more of my career has been spent representing people who deserve protections,” said Hohenstein, adding that he’s represented domestic violence victims, many of whose attackers were later deported. “That’s my real career.”
Hohenstein is a big supporter of worker bargaining rights, a prevailing wage and unemployment compensation, and has been endorsed by the SEIU 32BJ union.
The union has helped him be big presence on voters’ doorsteps.
“I’ve been door knocking at least five days a week,” he said.
In addition, he has been mailing campaign literature and running newspaper ads and a cable TV commercial. He unsuccessfully challenged Taylor to a debate.
“I’m doing this because I feel a call to serve,” he said. “Public service is worthwhile.”
On the issues, Hohenstein wants the drilling industry to pay more, with the proceeds going, in part, to education funding. He favors pay equality, claiming that women make just 79 cents for every dollar a man makes for doing the same work. He wants to develop the Delaware River waterfront to create jobs. He’s also staunchly pro-choice on abortion.
As for crime, he suggested that the gigantic 15th Police District might have to be split into two to increase police presence.
While Taylor has four district offices, Hohenstein also plans a focus on constituent service.
The minimum wage, he believes, should be raised to $15 an hour, a figure he thinks isn’t really enough.
“It’s only a $30,000 annual salary,” he said.
Hohenstein is grateful that ward leaders have accepted a newcomer like him, and dismissed Taylor’s perceived effectiveness, contending he brings mere “scraps” to Philadelphia.
Like most challengers, he knocks the incumbent as a creature of the status quo. Taylor has voted for bad budgets and preserves the School Reform Commission, Hohenstein argues.
Hohenstein said he’ll have a Philadelphia-centric vision, saying too many state legislators think they know what’s best for Philadelphia.
“John’s the establishment candidate. He’s gotta go,” Hohenstein said. “John’s voted more with Harrisburg than Philadelphia when push comes to shove. I’m hopin on Nov. 8 that the power will truly be with the people.”
Taylor is confident of victory. He’s long been strong in Port Richmond and Bridesburg, and he said his Longshore Avenue office has helped constituents in the Tacony and Mayfair areas who are new to the 177th after redistricting.
“I think we’re in good shape,” he said. “I have much more Republican-leaning divisions than I gave up.”
Republicans hold a 119–84 advantage in the House of Representatives, and Taylor predicts the GOP will pick up a few more seats, making his presence even more valuable.
If Taylor is re-elected, he’ll be the №2 Republicans in terms of seniority, behind only Rep. Bob Godshall.
“Somebody’s got to be in those rooms advocating for Philadelphia,” he said. “I have a good deal of respect in that caucus.”
Taylor defends his pro-life record, saying criticism of a recent abortion vote is “right out of the Democrat playbook.” He’s used to negatives.
“I’ve been through this before,” he said.
Taylor recalls a 2002 race against Pat Parkinson. Then-state Sen. Vince Fumo funded 15 consecutive negative mailings against him, with Ed Rendell heading the Democratic ticket as a candidate for governor.
Taylor won 78 percent of the vote.
“That was my highest margin ever,” he said.
Taylor said Philadelphia benefits from him being the chairman of the House Transportation Committee. He wants more education funding, and is eager to see more construction projects to create jobs.
A sure sign that he is doing a good job, Taylor said, is the number of elected Democratic officials who have shunned Hohenstein and said good things about him.
“I’m at the top of my game,” he said. ••