Candidates chase seat in 177th Legislative District

GOP Rep. John Taylor announced he would not seek another two-year term. Now, the race is on for his replacement.

On the campaign trail: Joe Hohenstein (above) plans to run for a soon-to-be available seat in the 177th Legislative District. Other possible Democratic candidates include Sean Patrick Wayland, Justin Salmasi, Dan Martino, Tom Forkin, Harry Enggasser, Dan Savage and Sean K. McMonagle.

Democrats and Republicans are jockeying for position in the 177th Legislative District, one week after veteran GOP Rep. John Taylor announced he would not seek another two-year term.

The 177th district consists generally of Bridesburg, Northwood and parts of Port Richmond, Tacony, West Mayfair, Holmesburg and Lexington Park.

The district has a big Democratic registration advantage, but many of those voters backed Taylor, who was first elected in 1984.

Last year, Taylor had a scare, as immigration lawyer Joe Hohenstein took almost 45 percent of the vote.

In that race, Hohenstein won four of the seven wards. But Taylor won the 45th Ward by 2,732 votes while winning overall by 2,637 votes.

So, what does the field look like for 2018?

On the Democratic side, Sean Patrick Wayland and Justin Salmasi were planning runs even before Taylor’s announcement.

Sean Patrick Wayland

Salmasi has a Crowdpac page to raise money.

Wayland, too, has a Crowdpac page, along with website, Twitter and Facebook campaign pages. The Port Richmond resident served eight years in the U.S. Army Reserve and spent time in Iraq in 2008. He has been endorsed by VoteVets.org.

Hohenstein was inching toward a rematch, with a planned decision around Labor Day. As soon as the Inquirer’s Chris Brennan reported Taylor’s decision the day after Labor Day, Hohenstein was all in.

But Salmasi, Wayland and Hohenstein probably won’t have the Democratic primary field to themselves.

Community activist Dan Martino said, “I am carefully considering a run but I haven’t made a final decision yet.”

Mayfair’s Tom Forkin is chairman of the 55th Ward Democratic Committee and works part-time as special counsel to state Rep. Mike Driscoll. He ran for City Council at large in 1987 and served as executive director for House Speaker Denny O’Brien, a Republican elected to the post with Democratic votes. He’s also served on the board of the Mayfair Community Development Corporation.

“It’s on my radar screen,” Forkin said. “I’m looking at all options right now.”

Harry Enggasser is Democratic leader of the 45th Ward, probably the key ward in the district. Enggasser challenged Taylor in 2006 and ’08. He’s president of the Bridesburg Civic Association and an aide to U.S. Rep. Bob Brady.

Enggasser said, “If I don’t get the endorsement, I will not run. I believe in the party and won’t go against it. Let’s see if the rest of the field will do the same.”

Democrats have mentioned at least two other names as possible candidates.

Dan Savage is Democratic leader of the 23rd Ward and a former city councilman. Sean K. McMonagle is an aide to Councilman Mark Squilla. Neither responded to a request for comment.

On the Republican side, a possible candidate is Chris Vogler, GOP leader of the 55th Ward.

Another possibility is Brian Caputo, a Port Richmond resident and former aide to Councilman Brian O’Neill.

Tim O’Brien, a former Municipal Court arraignment magistrate, did not rule out a run.

“I am very humbled and honored by the many requests for me to run. I just about cut my political teeth with John Taylor, but right now I’m completely focused on getting Beth Grossman elected district attorney, then I’ll think about the 177th,” he said.

To make up for the registration deficit, the eventual Republican nominee will likely have to embrace and be embraced by Taylor, perhaps pledging to keep his staff and district office locations.

Marc Collazzo, Taylor’s former chief of staff, recently began a new job as executive director for advancement and engagement at Pope John Paul II High School, in Royersford, Montgomery County. In 2010, he was the Republican candidate in the 170th Legislative District.

“All is going great. I have had many people reach out to me to ask me to run, but I’m focusing on this new chapter in my life and very happy with what I’m doing. So, no interest,” he said.

Some Republicans believe a woman candidate would give them their strongest chance to keep the seat.

Many people have mentioned Taylor aide Mia Hylan, but she lives on the 3000 block of Magee Ave., just outside the district.

Last Thursday, Hylan was staffing Taylor’s table at the Mayfair CDC night market. Like others who live outside the 177th, by law, she must move into the district by Nov. 7 to be able to run. But when asked, she seemed hesitant to make the move. ••