For perhaps the first time, a serious challenger has arisen against the Republican Party for one of the at-large seats reserved for a minority party for Philadelphia City Commissioner.
Jarrett Smith, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Pennsylvania Legislative Director, officially launched his bid for Commissioner under the banner of the Working Families Party (WFP) on Saturday afternoon.
Smith lobbies on behalf of 45,000 union health workers statewide. He has championed measures funneling $250 million to bedside care resources and regulating health care facility ownership, as well as helping pass Philadelphia’s Public Health Emergency Leave Act.
“When I see injustice, I fight it – as a queer, biracial person, I know what’s at stake in staying silent,” said Smith. “That’s why I’m running with the Working Families Party for Philadelphia City Commissioner, to protect voting rights for all Philadelphians.”
The Philadelphia City Commissioners are a three-member bipartisan board of elected officials in charge of elections and voter registration for the City of Philadelphia. The Commissioners set and enforce departmental policies to administer voter registration and conduct elections in accordance with federal and state voter registration and election laws.
The Commissioner position is one of three to oversee elections and voter registration in Philadelphia. In the heavily Democratic city, Smith’s run promises to be the largest, most robust campaign in history to challenge the Republican Party’s control of the seat.
It is the first time that the Working Families Party has put up a candidate for City Commissioner, setting up a face-off between the WFP and the Republican Party for the minority seat.
Four years ago, Republicans lost one of their two seats on City Council to a progressive challenger. Now they face an attack from another flank.
“This year, we have an opportunity to write a new chapter for local democracy in Philadelphia,” said Smith.
Smith welcomed guest speakers such as State Senator Nikil Saval (D-Philadelphia), District Attorney Larry Krasner, Wendell Young, President of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, Rev. Nicolas O’Rourke, WFP City Council Candidate, Representative Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia), and other supporters from local labor and progressive movements.
“We can’t rely on a two-party system running our elections when one of those parties wants to silence our voices and override our votes,” said Saval. “The status quo has given Philadelphia a 20-percent turnout rate, and voters deserve better. It’s time to get the anti-democratic Republican Party out of our elections and bring Working Families in.”
“Our city deserves a commissioner’s office that fights to increase access to voting rights, not the GOP,” read a tweet from the WFP twitter feed.
Kenyatta gave a full-throated endorsement for Smith.
“Let me tell you this — Jarrett Smith – gives a damn about working people. I’m excited to endorse (him), work for (him), and watch (him) continue to deliver for Philadelphia.”
Smith’s work has garnered the attention of local media as he was recently featured in City and State PA’s Government Relations Power 100 at No. 22.
“As an organizer, I’ve seen first-hand how hard it is to vote in this city,” said Smith. “As a City Commissioner, I’ll fight against disinformation campaigns, make voting accessible for immigrant and marginalized communities, and work with community groups on year-round voter education in our neighborhoods.”
According to its website, the Pennsylvania Working Families Party is a grassroots political party that recruits, trains, and elects the next generation of progressive leaders to office. We are building the political home of the multi-racial working class.
Current City Commissioners Lisa Deeley and Omar Sabir, both Democrats, along with Republican Seth Bluestein make up the current Board.