Three candidates are running for the United States House of Representatives in Pennsylvania’s May 15 primary election to represent the newly drawn third district, a district that represents Penn's campus and most of Philadelphia.
The incumbent in the third district is Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia), who is running against two newcomers: Democrat Kevin Johnson and Republican Bryan Leib. Evans has served in the House since 2016, while neither Johnson nor Leib have served in political office before.
Kevin Johnson, a pastor and self-described “bold progressive leader,” said he is running in order to fight “for those who have been forgotten.” Johnson is passionate about public schools, and says public education in Philadelphia needs more funding and resources.
“I’m a product of public schools, and I believe in public schools,” Johnson said, adding that if elected, he would like to sit on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
“When I look at all the economic activity that has taken place on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus, on Drexel, that is great for Philadelphia — but it also needs to be great for the community,” Johnson said. He said one of his main goals is to “dismantle income inequality.”
The Republican candidate is Bryan Leib, who currently acts as treasurer for the Philadelphia Young Republicans.
“We have a lot of people that are struggling to put food on the table, are struggling to get good paying jobs and keep good paying jobs,” Leib said. He hails small businesses as a means to strengthen and grow Philadelphia's economy.
“I know there is a vibrant start-up community on campuses, and I would want to do everything I can to support [that],” Leib said.
He also cited national election reform as a priority and said, if elected, he plans on introducing a bill to limit congressional terms, which currently have no enforced cap.
Both Johnson and Leib viewed their outsider status as a political strength.
The third and final candidate is incumbent Rep. Dwight Evans, who was elected to represent the now third district in 2016 and has served as a state representative since 1980.
If elected for a second term, Evans plans to "reduce poverty and increase opportunity" in Philadelphia, especially in West Philadelphia. Evans points to the West Philadelphia Promise Zone and Together for West Philadelphia as models to begin addressing “the fundamental question of poverty” in West Philadelphia.
Evans also points to education as a way to further address problems that exist on district and national levels. He describes schools like Penn and Drexel as “engines to attack the question of poverty" — in fact, Penn's Fels Institute of Government published Evans' 2013 political biography "Making Ideas Matter: My Life as a Policy Entrepreneur."
“I’m optimistic despite the challenges that we have, that we can move the needle and reduce poverty and grow jobs, deal with health care, and deal with education,” Evans said.
Penn College Republicans President and College junior Ryan Snyder said the group has more common policies with Republican candidate Bryan Leib and praised his "new perspective" and "fresh new set of policy ideas."
Yet Penn Democrats Communications Director and College junior Jack Weisman remained quite confident that Democrats would secure the district again.
“I think Penn students who are voting in this race have to remember that a lot of the district does not look like Penn; it’s a majority minority district, it’s a relatively poor district," Weisman said. "I would be shocked if Dwight Evans is not in Congress after this election."
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