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2013 Engineering graduate Rick Krajewski will represent Philadelphia’s 188th district. (Photo from Jason Lozado)

In January 2021, 2013 Engineering graduate Rick Krajewski will take office to represent Philadelphia’s 188th district, which encompasses Penn’s campus in University City. 

Krajewski defeated three opponents in the June 2 Democratic primary election — including incumbent Jim Roebuck, who has represented the 188th in Harrisburg for 35 years, Greg Benjamin, and Karen Dunn. He announced his win on June 15 via Twitter. 

Krajewski was endorsed by Senator Bernie Sanders and Philadelphia City Councilmember Jamie Gauthier. He far outspent all of his challengers and won over 46 percent of the votes cast. Roebuck won 27 percent of the vote and Benjamin and Dunn each won about 13 percent, West Philly Local reported.

Krajewski faces no challengers in the November general election. 

Once in office, Krajewski said his three priorities will be connecting underprivileged Philadelphians with essential government services, providing relief for small businesses and workers, and enacting progressive reforms to the state’s healthcare and justice systems. 

During his campaign, Krajewski organized a mutual aid program to connect local constituents with resources during the pandemic. As he anticipates Philadelphia will still be battling COVID-19 when he enters office in January, Krajewski will continue to prioritize increasing access to constituent services.

Krajewski added that the COVID-19 pandemic proves that Pennsylvania must eventually adopt a single-payer healthcare system, which he believes will improve communication between hospitals and expand healthcare access to people. 

He also said he stands with protesters and activists calling for the government to defund police and reallocate money to community resources. Krajewski supports the passage of police reform bills proposed last week in the state House of Representatives, which include a ban on chokeholds and proposals to increase public access to police footage.

“There’s all of this money being spent towards salaries, towards equipment, towards gear, towards an army, instead of safety,” Krajewski said. “What would it look like if we took all the money that’s going towards tanks and tear gas and what if we put that into schools? What if we put that into public health? What if we put that into arts and culture?”

Krajewski said he was first exposed to socioeconomic and racial inequalities at Penn which later inspired him to get involved in politics after working for several years as a software developer.

“Being a young Black man who grew up poor in a majority Black and brown neighborhood and moving through these spaces of privilege in high school and college made clear that there were a lot of people like me who weren’t given the same opportunities in education,” Krajewski said. “That pulled at me and made me really angry.” 

While an undergraduate at Penn, Krajewski founded an on-campus student group named “Check One,” which he described as a space for multiracial students to build a community and talk about their identities. “Check One,” which is no longer active, was Krajewski’s first experience with organizing, he said.

After graduating from Penn, Krajewski got involved with the Black Lives Matter movement. In 2017, he organized efforts to elect Larry Krasner as Philadelphia's District Attorney. 

Krajewski said he began to consider running for office himself after witnessing Krasner’s surprising victory and the success of other progressive candidates in Pennsylvania.

“Seeing these people take office and knowing that they had values similar to mine and that they could win — that they could run insurgent, left, Democratic-socialist campaigns — showed me that you can do it and you can win,” Krajewski said.

Krajewski is the latest progressive to have defeated a Pennsylvania incumbent. Other victors include State senator-elect Nikil Saval, Coatesville Citycouncilmember-elect Nydea Graves, and Philadelphia Councilwoman Kendra Brooks.