Nelson Diaz to announce mayoral campaign at Tierra Colombiana
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the change in venue for the official announcement of Nelson Diaz's candidacy for mayor of Philadelphia. Former judge Nelson Diaz, who will make the official announcement of his candidacy for mayor of Philadelphia Jan. 15, will do so at Tierra Colombiana in North Philly. The article was originally posted Dec. 22, 2014.
Although his candidacy has been a longtime rumor, and he’s had a political exploratory committee authorized to raise funds for his campaign since July, it wasn’t until Dec. 12, during a gathering of the Pennsylvania Society in New York City, that he said he would make it official.
Though some may argue Diaz is entering an already crowded field a little late for the May 19 Democratic primary election, the former judge said that he waited this long because “I wanted to make sure that I had the capacity to win.”
Diaz will face other democratic mayoral aspirants including State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, Terry Gillen, Lynn Abraham, and another Latino, Ken Trujillo.
“Based on what I’ve seen with regard to the city and the votes that I need to get, I think it’s a possible win for me”, Diaz said.
What were the other findings of the exploratory committee?
“That our community, which is the poorest community in the city of Philadelphia, if they really want to show that voting matters this is an opportunity to show that they can elect a person that has the capacity to change their lives. I would emphasize a real workforce development program and would emphasize housing, community development and education as a way of helping them reach the middle class as I did. I’m not a rich man but at least I’m a man that’s been able to be there for them, opening doors either to education, to business or to job opportunities”
What can you tell us about your work in education?
“I fought for education when I was in the desegregation task force in 1973, when I did the Temple University take-over to open the doors for minorities and poor whites. I had incredible success with that when there were no lawyers and very few Latino students getting into the institution. I think there is a possibility I can do the same with the public school system in the city, and I think I can open up job opportunities because all we have to do is train them for jobs that are available.”
What is your proposal for education?
“I’ve had clients in Camden and Chester — and elsewhere where I have been involved in school systems — those school systems have worked. When you have a program that is a continuum of education, where people care and love those kids and there is a relationship between the kids and the parents and the school teachers, then we can make schools work. Otherwise we are going to lose a generation of young people, and what happens when you lose a generation of people, you either pay now or you pay later.”
What can you tell us about your work within the Hispanic community and outside of it?
“The past 45 years I’ve been doing commercial and economic development at the ‘Golden Block,’ working with non profit organizations in the community that I’ve represented: APM, Norris Square, Aspira. I’ve brought jobs to senior citizens through my association with the National Association for Hispanic Elderly, filing lawsuits to allow them to vote bilingually back when they were unable to do so. But I’ve been involved in the entire city of Philadelphia, not just one segment of it. I was at the Urban Affairs Coalition, and we tried to open up summer jobs for the poor and the needy. I am not just talking about the Hispanic community. I’ve been able to open jobs and jobs opportunities for many people and have made people very wealthy in the development of businesses. I’ve also been on the PECO and the Exelon board for 12 years.”
The Hispanic community is not politically unified...
“I don’t know any community that is unified. If you look at the African-American community or the white community, they have several candidates. It’s about who best qualifies to do this and everybody should have an opportunity to make their presentation and let the voters decide. When we say the community is not unified, I disagree, I think the community is very unified and I think there are always political concerns with regards to the ideology of one candidate over another but I believe that the community is just as unified as any other community in this city.”
Does the constant comparison with Ken Trujillo as Latino candidate bother you?
“It doesn’t bother me because I’m very proud of being Puerto Rican. It’s an important element that many of our children will see the possibilities that they can also have in their own communities, and can change things just as I did coming from a very humble background. I went from there to change and open doors not only for latinos, but for blacks and whites. I don’t have to prove anything, I’ve already done it.”
Does the first Latino mayor of Philadelphia has to be Puerto Rican?
“I don’t care what it is. I just want a mayor that will fix the school system and provide job opportunities. If there is somebody better to be able to do that, that’s who we are looking for. We need somebody who will finally take care of the 28 percent poverty rate in our city and the fact that 9 out of 10 kids are just not finishing school. There are two cities here, the wealthy in Center City and the poor in the neighborhoods. We can’t have two cities, we need one city and we need to provide employment opportunities for everybody and education for everybody.”
Have you consider how the apathy of Latino voters is going to affect you?
“I don’t think there is going to be apathy. This is the first time they have something to vote for. They’ve had nothing to vote for in the past. They didn’t know anybody, but they know me. It’s been 45 years of working within a community and I believe they will be very fair to a candidate that is looking to improve their lives. Conditions have not gotten better. We have the poorest community in the state of Pennsylvania.”