Sam Oropeza and the campaign manager for Jim Dillon spoke at Monday night’s Take Back Your Neighborhood meeting.
Oropeza, a Republican, and Dillon, a Democrat, are competing in a May 17 special election in the 5th Senatorial District. The seat has been vacant since former Sen. John Sabatina Jr. became a Common Pleas Court judge at the beginning of the year.
Oropeza, 36, is a Delaware County native who lives in the Bridesburg area with his fiancee and two kids, a 7-year-old girl and 5-year-old boy, who are homeschooled. He wrestled in high school, attended Williamson Trade School and was a pro boxer and a fighter in Bellator MMA. He is close friends with Eddie Alvarez, a North Catholic graduate and three-time MMA world champion.
Oropeza works in real estate in Harrowgate and heads the nonprofit Rescuing Streets through Clean Ups (RSCU). He sees the city plagued by gun violence and drugs.
“I believe public safety should be our No. 1 priority,” he said.
Oropeza also mentioned opioids, homelessness, mental health and education as top issues. He wants more recreation centers, Police Athletic League programs, gyms and activities to give young people positive role models.
Oropeza gave out his card with his cell phone number on it and welcomed people to check out Sam for PA Senate on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Ethan Seletsky, Dillon’s campaign manager and a former intern for state Rep. Jared Solomon, represented his client, who had a prior commitment with the Hoops 24-7 basketball academy. Dillon was a point guard at Notre Dame who also played in Finland. He’s lived in the Far Northeast his whole life, other than his time overseas, with Seletsky saying his home was destroyed by fire earlier this year on his 43rd birthday. He works as a grant compliance officer with the School District of Philadelphia.
Seletsky described Dillon, a father of two girls, as a positive role model for young people whose No. 1 priority is putting more police officers on the street. He’s also in favor of improved school infrastructure and policies that lead to well-paying jobs. He’s endorsed by the building trades and the state AFL-CIO, with Seletsky saying he wants to help build a pipeline from high school to jobs in the trades.
In office, he’d focus on constituent services and securing public money for effective programs.
Seletsky, noting Republicans have controlled the Senate since 1994, faulted the GOP for inaction on Sen. Tina Tartaglione’s minimum wage bill and said Republicans share in the blame for the “carnage” in Philadelphia.
One woman asked about how Dillon became a candidate, with Seletsky explaining that Shawn Dillon, his older brother, was forced to drop out of the race because his campaign failed to file a statement of financial interest with the state ethics commission, a “clerical oversight.”
A man asked Seletsky if Jim Dillon would agree to a debate with Oropeza. Seletsky said a debate would be up to the League of Women Voters. However, members of the civic association said they’d host a debate. A possible date is May 9 at Max Myers Playground.
In other news from the meeting:
• Mark Mroz, the community relations officer in the 2nd Police District, said the district set a record with its ninth murder of the year. On Saturday, a 25-year-old black male was found shot in the back and head on the 5600 block of Newtown Ave. Mroz said that, when he first started working in the 2nd more than 20 years ago, there was about one murder every other year.
Mroz also spoke of robberies of pizza delivery drivers and thefts of valuable items from unlocked cars.
• TBYN acting treasurer Pam Baranackie revealed that a former member, out of spite, ended the group’s nonprofit status. The unauthorized move by the former self-proclaimed executive director has cost TBYN grant money. When a woman in the crowd asked, “Did she apologize,” everyone laughed out loud.
• TBYN continues to monitor a single-family home on the 7200 block of Algon Ave. that has been converted to a duplex. During a recent walk through, members found the electricity off on the bottom floor and rotting food in the refrigerator. The landlord is from New York. Robert Rudnitsky, who heads the group, credited the office of former City Councilman Bobby Henon with helping on absentee landlord issues. He is hoping for the same kind of support from the offices of Councilwomen Cherelle Parker and Maria Quinones Sanchez.
• Rep. Jared Solomon will hold a free shredding event on May 21, from 9 a.m. to noon, at the Philadelphia Protestant Home, 6401 Martins Mill Road. ••