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Candidates continue to stump as election day nears

Standing, from left: Sam Oropeza, Pat Gallagher, Aaron Bashir, Mike Driscoll, Pete McDermott.

Holmesburg Civic Association held a candidates night last Tuesday at Holmesburg Recreation Center.

In attendance were Jim Dillon and Sam Oropeza, the Democratic and Republican candidates, respectively, in the May 17 5th Senatorial District special election; Pat Gallagher and Pete McDermott, the Democratic candidates in the 173rd Legislative District primary; state Rep. Mike Driscoll, who is unopposed in the special election in the 6th Councilmanic District; and Aaron Bashir, the Republican candidate in the 2nd Congressional District.

Dillon, 43, is a graduate of Our Lady of Calvary, Holy Ghost Prep and Notre Dame, where he played basketball. He’s a father of two, caretaker for his 85-year-old mom with breast cancer and runs the Hoops 24-7 basketball academy. He wants more funding for police, a gun court to prosecute illegal gun crimes and a higher minimum wage.

Oropeza is a Delaware County native and graduate of Monsignor Bonner and Williamson Trade School. He’s a former boxer and MMA fighter who now works in real estate. He has a son and daughter. He wants more of a priority on public safety, a better business climate and positive outlets for at-risk youth, and believes he is in a good position to accomplish those goals because Republicans control the state House and Senate.

Driscoll is a graduate of Cardinal Dougherty and La Salle University, and has a master’s from Penn. He has five kids and lives in East Torresdale. Crime and property taxes are two of his main issues.

Gallagher is a graduate of St. Martin of Tours, Cardinal Dougherty and Temple. He spent eight years as chief of staff to Driscoll, who has endorsed him. FOP Lodge 5 also backs him. Gallagher’s top issues include help for an undermanned police department, financial literacy education for young people to help them handle student loan debt and support for Keystone Saves to assist people planning for retirement.

McDermott is married with a young daughter. He’s a graduate of St. Matthew and Father Judge, and teaches career and technical education at Ben Franklin High School. He likes his job because it gives him a chance to make a difference. A neighborhood activist, he opposed the methadone clinic at Frankford Avenue and Decatur Street. He is concerned about crime and Larry Krasner’s policies in that regard, and would like more state and federal law enforcement involvement. He believes there is too little money dedicated to the state rent rebate/property tax program. “I want to triple it.”

Bashir, who challenged state Rep. Kevin Boyle in 2020, decried the city’s high murder rate. He noted he was a supporter of police during the 2020 riots and looting. Bashir wants a greater emphasis on Judeo-Christian values.

In the question-and-answer session, Driscoll recalled that he supported Jack O’Neill in the 2017 Democratic primary for district attorney, and did not support Krasner’s 2021 re-election.

“I think Larry Krasner is a disaster,” he said. “We kicked Larry Krasner’s a– in the 65th Ward.”

The candidates were asked their views on abortion.

Oropeza said he is a Catholic who is pro-life.

“I’m not going to abandon my values,” he said.

Dillon left after his remarks, but a supporter in the crowd said he is pro-choice.

Gallagher and McDermott said they are pro-choice.

Bashir said he is pro-life.

“Thou Shalt Not Kill,” he said.

A man in the crowd also answered.

“Thank God our parents were pro-life,” he said, “or we’d be in an empty room.”

••

Police widows Maureen Faulkner and Terri O’Connor appeared on a Zoom call on Tuesday to express support for Bill McSwain, a former U.S. Attorney and Republican candidate for governor.

Faulkner’s husband, Daniel, was killed in 1981 by Mumia Abu-Jamal. O’Connor’s husband, Jimmy, was killed in 2020 as SWAT entered a Frankford home to serve a fugitive murder arrest warrant.

Both women dislike District Attorney Larry Krasner. Faulkner called the DA “a devil” who is destroying Philadelphia. O’Connor said her husband’s alleged killers were on the streets due to Krasner’s lenient policies, adding that she’s glad McSwain charged them federally.

“The accused defendants in that case should never have been on the street,” O’Connor said.

McSwain said, win or lose on Tuesday, he will always treasure having the support of Faulkner and O’Connor.

McSwain, in his first run for public office, said his budget would include more resources for law enforcement. He believes police are often unfairly vilified, and with the support of public officials he thinks they will become more proactive, leading to a drop in crime.

Faulkner and O’Connor support McSwain’s call for a constitutional amendment to allow the governor to appoint the Philadelphia district attorney. McSwain cites the city’s sky-high murder rate for his proposal.

“We will rid the city of Larry Krasner,” he said.

••

State Rep. Martina White (R-170th dist.) endorsed fellow Republican Sam Oropeza in Tuesday’s special election for the open 5th Senatorial District.

“I fight side-by-side every day with the people of the Northeast against the Kraser-Kenney agenda that is putting us in danger, costing families too much due to inflation caused by their failed fiscal policies, and failing our kids and their schools,” White said. “We need Sam Oropeza to join our fight because he will do what is right and say no to the politics and city leaders who got us here.”

White was elected in a 2015 special election.

Oropeza said, “Martina White has shown that when you focus on what’s right instead of a political agenda or party affiliation you can make a positive difference. That is what I will do as state senator, and I look forward to working with her to fight rampant crime, protect the money of our hard-working families, support job creators, and improve the education system so every child has a chance to succeed.”

White described Oropeza as a trained tradesman who worked in the refineries before moving to the business world, a loving dad worried about his kids and a community leader who has already stepped forward to clean up Northeast neighborhoods.

Others endorsing Oropeza have been Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 37, IAFF Local 22, the Temple University Police Association and former state Rep. John Taylor.

Oropeza faces Democrat Jimmy Dillon.

All registered voters may vote for the candidate of their choice in the special election. ••

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