Latinos, the mayoral race and the ugly quagmire incited by LUPE
You know, covering the Latino political class in Philadelphia breaks my heart.
There is no one who believes more fervently in the intelligence, spirit and quality of our community. I have been willing — more than willing — to cross swords with whomever dares underestimate us as a community, and with those who leave us out of the discourse about the future of Philadelphia. Because we are worth fighting for. So worth fighting for.
I’ve been especially harsh with those who would further disenfranchise us with dire predictions of low voter turnout in the upcoming primaries, despite its historic first — a Latino candidate for mayor.
At times, just the fact of Nelson Díaz’s candidature (as with Ken Trujillo’s before he dropped out of the race), has made Latino gatherings electric with possibility and promise.
And, then, a quagmire.
A quagmire, it has to be said, created by some members of the Latino political class. It is predicated on both arrogance and on Latinos United for Political Empowerment’s continued embrace of a Latino candidate who has for years demonstrated casual racism, homophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment in the comments on his personal Facebook page.
Today, Jim Kenney’s campaign announced that “Latinos United for Political Empowerment (LUPE), which consists of Philadelphia Latino elected officials, community leaders and ward leaders, announced their endorsement of Democrat Jim Kenney for mayor. LUPE includes State Representatives Leslie Acosta and Angel Cruz of Districts 197 and 180, encompassing West Kensington, Fairhill, Juniata Park, Hunting Park and large sections of North Philadelphia.”
This came as a surprise to us because LUPE had earlier endorsed Nelson Díaz, on March 11 at the Casa de España Restaurant, where a voter registration event and the kick-off of Manny Morales’ campaign to secure the 7th District seat in City Council was held. Díaz also endorsed Morales at the event.
The endorsement happened before Morales’ biased Facebook posts became public, and eventually Díaz withdrew his endorsement of Morales, citing Morales’ inability to substantiate claims that his Facebook page had been hacked and the biased posts inserted by others.
Around the same time, the Democratic City Committee Chair, Bob Brady, urged ward leaders to reconsider their endorsement of Morales.
Fast forward to the latest.
“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 [LUPE] would drop their endorsement of me and endorse a candidate willing to make that deal,” Nelson Díaz said in a written release after Kenney announced LUPE’s endorsement.
“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,” Díaz said. “My integrity is the most important asset I have, and so I said no. If supporting Manny Morales is the price of this endorsement, it is not a price I am willing to pay.”
(For their part, the Kenney campaign says that their endorsement by LUPE does not represent a Kenney endorsement of Morales.)
I’ve seen the Morales Facebook posts. They are grotesquely biased and ignorant and it is sheer arrogance to argue that they are not. They show the worse of our community, not the best. Likewise the fact that ward leaders and representatives continue to endorse the candidate who penned them.
I am glad that Díaz is standing by his principles on this. The loss of LUPE’s endorsement will not hurt him.
And to the Latino voting community I say, whomever you vote for May 19: We want politicians who stand — not kneel or kowtow. We want politicians who represent the best of us, and the best in us. We want politicians with scruples, and the grit, to say no.