Quinones Sanchez gears up for showdown with Cruz

City Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez (D-7th dist.), facing a tough primary fight, announced her re-election bid on Saturday at Taller Puertorriqueno, 5th and Huntingdon streets.

Sanchez is seeking a fourth term.

In office since 2008, she faces a challenge from veteran state Rep. Angel Cruz in the May 21 primary. Republicans are not expected to field a candidate in the heavily Democratic district.

The 7th Councilmanic District includes Castor Gardens, Northwood, Frankford, Juniata, Feltonville and Kensington.

In 2015, Sanchez took 53.5 percent in the primary against a relative unknown in Manny Morales. The incumbent’s big margin in the 23rd Ward, home to Frankford and Northwood, saved her job.

Sanchez, the only Democrat to vote against the beverage tax, spoke of her work improving public schools, playgrounds, Police Athletic League centers, commercial corridors, the Frankford Transportation Center and oversight and transparency as chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee.

“We have reimagined neighborhoods,” she said.

Sanchez has a reputation of fighting the Democratic machine.

“My independence comes at a cost,” she said.

That cost is a primary challenge. While not mentioning Cruz by name, she called him “old and tired,” adding that he is not progressive enough.

“He hasn’t passed one bill to improve the quality of life in this district,” she said.

Sanchez promised to fight back if the campaign turns negative. Toward the end of her speech, a woman began hollering at her in Spanish, and the councilwoman responded in the same language while supporters quieted the woman with a chant of “Maria.”

Representatives of SEIU 32BJ and Laborers’ Local Union 57 endorsed the incumbent.

Others at the rally included ward leaders Emilio Vazquez, Tim Savage and Sharon Vaughn; mayoral candidate Alan Butkovitz; District Attorney Larry Krasner; city elections commissioner Lisa Deeley; state Reps. Jason Dawkins and Jared Solomon; Frankford Community Development Corporation executive director Kimberly Washington; Council members Darrell Clarke, Mark Squilla, Cindy Bass, Blondell Reynolds Brown, Curtis Jones, Kenyatta Johnson and Derek Green; and former Councilman Angel Ortiz.

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Justin DiBerardinis, a Democratic candidate for Council at large, has been endorsed by Register of Wills Ron Donatucci, the Faculty and Staff Federation of Community College of Philadelphia and 5th Square, an urbanist political action committee.

DiBerardinis is a community organizer who argued for a new Willard Elementary School in Kensington, served as legislative director for Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez and led the six-year revitalization of Bartram’s Garden in Southwest Philadelphia.

“What Justin’s done already for the schools and at Bartram’s is just the beginning. We need him in Council,” said Donatucci, Democratic leader of the 26th Ward.

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Councilwoman Cherelle Parker last week introduced legislation that would put a question on the May ballot regarding increasing Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025.

Gov. Tom Wolf recently proposed raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour on July 1, 2019, with gradual 50-cent increases until reaching $15 an hour in 2025. Pennsylvania’s minimum wage of $7.25 – the same as the federal minimum wage – has been unchanged for the last 10 years.

“It is past time that all working Pennsylvanians be able to earn a living wage that enables them to afford the basic necessities and provide for their families,” Parker said. “Increasing the minimum wage will benefit all of our neighborhoods, including often-overlooked middle neighborhoods, and allow workers to put the additional earnings right back into their communities. In light of the governor’s recent proposal, I think it’s time for fellow Philadelphians to weigh in on this issue.”

The referendum would ask voters to amend the Home Rule Charter to call upon the General Assembly to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2025 or, alternatively, to allow the City of Philadelphia to increase the minimum wage in Philadelphia.

The city cannot increase the minimum wage alone. Philadelphia is preempted by State Act 112 from passing any minimum wage law, which means that minimum wage changes must occur at the state level. ••