Pro-Morales Latino coalition drops Diaz to endorse Kenney
Less than a month away from the May Democratic primary, a Latino coalition has dropped its mayoral endorsement of Judge Nelson Díaz and agreed to back former City Councilman Jim Kenney instead.
The switch came allegedly after Díaz refused to endorse the controversial 7th District challenger Manny Morales.
Latinos United for Political Empowerment (LUPE), an organization developed in 2014 to build political alliances within the Philadelphia Latino community, told Díaz that if he did not support reaffirm his support of Morales, he would lose their endorsement.
Díaz had originally announced that he and Morales were “running mates” at a Get Out The Vote Rally in March. Several ward leaders were present, as well as State Representatives Angel Cruz and Leslie Acosta, members of LUPE.
Diaz then rescinded his support after a scandal emerged over the ultra-conservative, racist, and homophobic materials published on Morales’ Facebook account. The Philadelphia Democratic Committee followed suit and backed away from Morales the following day. Evidence has still not been offered to support Morales’ defense that his account was hacked.
Running a coordinated campaign with Morales was made an explicit condition of LUPE's support, and Díaz said he wouldn’t do it.
"Last week, I was told in no uncertain terms that unless I was willing to fund and participate in a joint campaign with Manny Morales, this group would drop their endorsement of me and endorse a candidate willing to make that deal,” Diaz said in a statement Monday. “I again asked for some evidence Morales hadn't made the hateful statements attributed to him, but wasn't given that evidence, because it almost certainly does not exist.”
“My integrity is the most important asset I have, and so I said no,” he added. “If supporting Manny Morales is the price of this endorsement, it is not a price I am willing to pay. Apparently Jim Kenney is willing to make that deal. I am profoundly disappointed but not surprised. He values his own election more than his integrity, and more than basic progressive values.”
Meanwhile, Kenney’s campaign maintains that it in no way supports Morales, and that no joint effort exists between the two LUPE-endorsed candidates.
“We absolutely do not support Manny and we made no such deal,” Lauren Hitt, Kenney’s campaign spokesperson, said. “There are a lot of members of LUPE who revoked their endorsement after all of the allegations came to light, just as Mr. Diaz did. They’ve also endorsed a number of candidates for City Council who do not endorse Manny either. Mr. Diaz is obviously just embarrassed that he lost an endorsement from a Latino organization, and he’s making some pretty offensive and baseless accusations as a result.”
AL DÍA also received confirmation that LUPE requested over $102,000 from Díaz for the joint campaign with Morales in the 7th Councilmanic campaign. However, Kenney said that his team has given no money to LUPE, and are not coordinating on any campaign effort.
The LUPE members cited by Kenney campaign in the announcement — State Rep. Angel Cruz and State Rep. Leslie Acosta — both openly support Morales, in line with the organization’s official stance. We have yet to receive a list of which LUPE members do not support Morales.
Cruz said that Díaz is at fault for losing the endorsement.
"Supporting another Latino was number one for us,” he said. “But as the campaign went forward, we had a meeting to discuss election day and a whole bunch of things, and we were told from Nelson's campaign that our services were not needed. They didn't want us because they had volunteers. That they didn't want LUPE. All they wanted was the endorsement"
"What are we supposed to do? Beg them to let us help him in his campaign? They made us free agents to choose anybody else, but we were with him through everything, and then the campaign tell us that they don't want us,” Cruz added.
On the contrary, former Councilman Angel Ortiz believes that LUPE doesn’t understand the historical impact of Diaz’s campaign and are basing their decision on monetary reasons and neighborhood political rivalries.
“The struggle for political empowerment was simply thrown to the street. They obviously do not understand the history and the struggle that we have endured for over 50 years to get to this point,” Ortiz said. “This is infuriating, I hope more than ever that the Puerto Rican and Latino people go out to vote.”
“It is a mistake of historical proportions that the first Puerto Rican candidate that has the credentials to be mayor and a group of leaders decide to go against him," he added.
Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, the incumbent 7th district councilwoman and opponent of Morales, said the the endorsement reflects poorly on the Latino political community.
“They supported Nelson and when he couldn’t give them the money they asked they moved over to Jim Kenney,” Quiñones said. “This is part of everything that is wrong about Morales’ campaign. Is more than a political decision. It speaks to the fact that they have no credibility. How do you a month ago stand and support Nelson Diaz and talk about Latino political empowerment and then move from that? This is not about the community, this is about themselves.”