Malcolm Kenyatta has secured a series of endorsements in an effort to “build a coalition of Democrats” ahead of the November midterm elections, where he will likely be elected as the first LGBTQ person of color to serve in the state legislature.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey and New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker announced their support for Kenyatta — the Democratic candidate running for state representative in the 181st House District — ahead of the candidate’s recent campaign fundraiser at the Bellevue Hotel in Center City Aug. 8.
PGN asked Kenyatta about his recent endorsements from non-progressive candidates. “I’m focused on building as big of a coalition of Democrats at all levels of government who want to start moving us in a different direction than the Republican legislature and the Republicans controlling things in Washington have done in the last year.”
Of the high-profile endorsements, Kenyatta said: “I’m excited that the entire Democratic Party is ready to support me to ensure that we’re successful in November. Many people who fall in line with Trump’s values don’t think that a poor black kid from North Philly should be serving in Harrisburg.”
Local progressive groups such as Philly For Change and the political action group Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club backed Kenyatta’s campaign.
Henry Sias, co-chair of Liberty City, said Democrats of all kinds coming together to make and enforce laws representing the party’s shared values is “fundamental to how democracy works.”
“When I see non-progressive candidates endorse Kenyatta, I’m seeing a recognition from these politicians who have been doing this for a long time that he is important to the future of the Democratic Party,” he said.
Sias added that Kenyatta is “a strong candidate because he’s been knocking on doors that haven’t been knocked on.”
As the midterms draw near, Liberty City will lead a Get Out the Vote campaign that targets areas in the city with low voter turnouts.
“We need to preserve our voice in the voting booth,” Sias said. “There’s a growing awareness among younger people, people of color and LGBTQ people that there are folks out there who don’t want us to vote. The right to vote feels even more precious when we know there are people who want to disenfranchise us. Those doors have to get knocked on, those calls need to be made.”
In a packed room of supporters Aug. 8, Kenyatta emphasized his campaign initiatives, repeatedly saying, “We have work to do” when it comes to having “strong public schools in every part of [the] city,” a minimum-wage increase to $15 an hour and “common-sense” gun-control laws.
“The people who Trump has put around him are people who don’t want to see working-class people get ahead, nor do they want barriers removed for marginalized groups,” Kenyatta told PGN after his fundraiser. “We need to bring as many people together to push against that agenda.”
Kenney, who appointed Kenyatta to the Mayor’s Commission on LGBT Affairs, complimented the activist-turned-political-candidate for his “intellect, compassion, positive energy and altruism” and for taking on “the serious issues and problems that confront the poor and working families in Philadelphia and throughout Pennsylvania.”
Booker of New Jersey similarly voiced his support for the progressive candidate, “because he will stand up for working families in the fight to ensure that every Pennsylvanian makes a livable wage and that every child has access to the highest-quality public-school education,” he said during a visit to the city Aug. 7 for the 57th annual session gathering for the Progressive National Baptist Convention.
In a statement, Casey said, “North Philadelphia needs Malcolm Kenyatta fighting for them in Harrisburg.”
After winning a five-way primary in May’s election, Kenyatta faces Republican opponent Thomas Street in the November general election. The 181st District covers parts of North and North Central Philadelphia, Yorktown, Francisville, Glenwood, West Popular, Northern Liberties and Old Kensington.
The Human Rights Campaign, the national LGBTQ civil-rights advocacy group, announced Aug. 13 it was endorsing Kenyatta. Allison VanKuiken, HRC Pennsylvania state director, said in a statement: “In the face of a federal administration hell-bent on turning back the clock and a state legislature that has refused to take action to protect the thousands of LGBTQ Pennsylvanians, endorsing pro-equality candidates in races up and down the ballot has never been more important.