Legal tension boils in District 7 over petition signatures
Both candidates filed legal challenges hoping to disqualify the competition as the primary date nears.
In the first week of March, Andres Celin celebrated a campaign milestone after securing over 2,000 signatures to qualify for the May primary.
A week later, he hopes to eliminate the competition.
Celin contends that of the almost 3,500 signatures incumbent Councilmember Quetcy Lozada collected on the campaign trail during the petitioning period, only 708 are valid, raising questions about how active both hopefuls were on their feet.
“I was served yesterday at my home,” Lozada said in a statement to AL DÍA News.
Lozada did not respond to further questions surrounding her opposition’s legal challenge but expressed confidence over her prospects in court.
The Celin campaign, which reckons with a signature challenge of its own, declined to comment, and people close to the campaign said the challenge was “sensitive.” The campaign, additionally, declined to comment on the nature of the claim, and if the challenge came from Lozada’s camp.
On Celin’s social media, an “All hands” call appeared on its channel, urging supporters to join a strategy session for the incoming 60 days ahead of the primary.
For candidates to become eligible per election law, they must collect 750 signatures at minimum, and should Celin’s claim be successful, it eliminates Lozada’s chances of appearing on the ballot.
“While it is a part of the process, I am disappointed that such frivolous claims have been made. I’m confident I’ll be on the May primary ballot,” Lozada, who heads to court to battle it out over signatures, continued.
Lozada and Celin are among dozens of candidates put through a petition challenge, raising the stakes in a district historically disengaged from the political process.
The last time District 7 saw this much hubbub over a local race was in 2019 when former State Representative Ángel Cruz vied to unseat then-incumbent Councilmember Maria Quiñones Sánchez from her district stronghold, made up of a majority Spanish-speaking constituency.
Quiñones Sánchez’s 14 years at the helm of Philly’s proved effective in August of last year as she ushered in Councilmember Quetcy Lozada, her former Chief of Staff, to succeed her and cemented Quiñones Sánchez as the district’s new kingmaker.
But now, the outlook has changed. The seat is seemingly in its most vulnerable state with new, eager candidates who represent the rising progressive movement quickly spreading to every district and with candidates who are not aiming for at-large seats.
Lozada, from the outset of her swearing-in ceremony in November, branded herself a centrist willing to work with the police force and maintain relationships with the progressive movement without necessarily adhering to its politics.
And from the moment she sat down with ward leaders who unanimously elected and endorsed her, Lozada’s first trial term is miles away from her mentor, who famously clashed with the party despite her popularity in the district.
Celin, however, leads a charge of younger, more engaged constituencies aligned with progressive groups that have traveled to places like Norris Square to campaign aggressively on his behalf.
Lozada, in turn, has the trust of the wards along with the voters it engages, and the primary will be the ultimate decider if the petition challenges fail.