Maria Quiñones-Sánchez and Angel Cruz face off in the Democratic primary election
The long-time rivals clash for the District 7 City Council seat in Democratic primary election on May 21.
“I did not enter politics to get along,” Maria Quiñones-Sánchez told AL DÍA News during a newsroom visit last week. “I entered politics to be a disruptor and change the course of what I thought were hostile policies against the communities that I wish to represent.”
“That said,” she continued, “I have a responsibility, if I am going to be a voice for the constituencies that I represent, to be the best prepared, to work really hard, and to be a good advocate.”
The councilwoman currently represents the 7th District in Philadelphia City Council, which covers parts of North Philadelphia, including the neighborhoods of Castor Gardens, Hunting Park, Feltonville, Frankford, Juniata, and Kensington.
In 2008, she made history by becoming the first Puerto Rican to be elected to District City Council and the first Latina to serve on the Philadelphia City Council.
Quiñones-Sánchez has since been re-elected twice and has managed to win all three elections without the majority support of ward leaders of her district, or the Democratic City Committee.
This year, circumstances remain the same. She faces up against long-time rival and veteran state representative, Angel Cruz. Four ward leaders have endorsed Quiñones-Sánchez, while eight have endorsed Cruz (one of those votes includes Cruz himself).
Cruz believes the lack of support illustrates Quiñones-Sánchez’s inability to work with ward leaders and properly serve her constituents -- a stance that he has been insistent upon for a long time. He represents a circle of Latino Democrats in the district that have rejected Quiñones-Sánchez for more than a decade.
In an interview with AL DÍA last November, Cruz said, “The problem with the Councilwoman is that she doesn’t know how to unite, she doesn’t know how to bring everybody to the table.”
“I’ve been in legislature 20 years,” he added, “I’m a ward leader, I have the experience, I have the knowledge of the needs.”
The state representative believes that his experience and established connections can help him do a better job of bringing people together in the district than Quiñones-Sánchez.
Quiñones-Sánchez says that getting the support of ward leaders that oppose her would mean making compromises that she’s not comfortable making for her community. She acknowledged the political corruption which runs deep in the 7th district.
“I don’t play along and I’m not willing to compromise my values,” Quiñones-Sánchez told AL DÍA, “I don’t want to go to jail for people.”
The statement perhaps alludes to Cruz’s former boss, Councilman Rick Mariano. Cruz served for five years as an aide to Mariano, who represented the 7th district from 1996 to 2006. Mariano’s time as a councilman ended when he was found guilty on charges of bribery. He spent four years in prison.
“I pick my friends and I definitely pick my enemies,” Quiñones-Sanchez emphasized, continuing, “People who are hostile to my community, who want to take advantage of my community, are not my friends and I’m going to stand up for the constituents that I represent.”
She told AL DÍA that she does not share values with a number of other Latino elected-officials in the city. This includes her adversary, Cruz, whom she referred to as a certain type of established candidate.
“Every institution, every power structure has this, right? They pick the person that doesn’t buck the system,” she explained, noting that she believes Cruz, who has been representing the 170th House District in Harrisburg since 2000, is that candidate.
Quiñones-Sanchez welcomes a new wave democratic leadership in Philadelphia, which will sweep past the “immature” political establishment that she insists Cruz still represents.
It’s a shift that the three-term City Councilwoman sees happening through a number of former staff members and candidates that she has helped reach elected office.
Two of her former staff members, Danilo Burgos and Jason Dawkins, now serve as state representatives. One former staff member, Justin Diberardinis, is running for an at-large seat in City Council.
“This notion that we’re not working with other folks is not real,” the councilwoman said. “It’s only created by a small faction of folks that represent the very old establishment.”
Democratic primary elections will take place on May 21.