A Second Chance: In conversation with City Council candidate Nicolas O’Rourke
In a sit down, the Working Families Party Organizing Director and Pastor talked about running again, and his plans for Philly.
The Working Families Party of Pennsylvania Organizing Director, Reverend Nicolas O’Rourke officially launched his campaign for an at-large City Council seat earlier this week at Bartram’s Garden in Southwest Philadelphia on Wednesday, Dec. 7.
This is O’Rourke’s second run at an at-large City Council seat after previously running back in 2019, but losing out to Republican Councilmember David Oh. With Oh expected to run for Mayor, it leaves a vacant seat for the WFP’s organizing director to pick up. The spot he is looking to fill is one of two at-large council seats reserved specifically for minority parties.
The GOP historically held both seats for more than 70 years until Councilmember Kendra Brooks — close friend and 2019 running mate of O’Rourke — won one back in 2019, shocking the city’s political field.
The pastor is running again as a Working Families Party candidate with an agenda focused on community safety and reducing gun violence, developing affordable and accessible housing, creating good jobs, and advancing climate justice.
O’Rourke recently sat down with AL DÍA News to speak more about his life, his faith, campaign, and policy.
He started by talking about what he learned from his first campaign and how it informs his new run in 2023.
“We recognized in 2019 that the WFP was new to people. The reason why I was unsuccessful the first time, even though we saw it as a success, was that no one took it seriously until it was too late,” said O’Rourke. “We're going to take that learning with us and recognize how much more education we're gonna have to do so that folks are aware of the multiple options that they have. Not just Democrats, not just Republicans, but working families too.”
O’Rourke is also a pastor at Living Water United Church of Christ in the Oxford Circle neighborhood, in Northeast Philly. That also plays a major role in the values of his current run.
“I shared that community care of love, compassion, these things are foundational when you are becoming a minister. It's a formation process. It's not supposed to just be an accumulation of facts, you're supposed to be formed. For me, those values do not go away,” he said. “When I address politics, social issues in the world, I still frame my understanding of the world through those lenses. When I say community care, that's central to how we ought to be thinking about governing, particularly now.”
In regards to his work as an organizer for the Working Families Party, O’Rourke is up front about the movement’s goals as the party for the working class and working poor.
“We're building grassroots political power for the multiracial working class. In recent years folks are becoming a little bit more desiring of other options. People would see critical third parties as spoiler parties where it's a throwaway vote because there was so much strength between these two parties,” O’Rourke said. “For us, it's being non delusional, and building durable power that can last. We need power that's going to extend beyond the election cycle.”
In 2022, the Working Families Party is a viable third option for many, especially after Brooks’ victory in 2019.
O’Rourke is running again as a WFP candidate with an agenda focused on community safety and reducing gun violence, developing affordable and accessible housing, creating good jobs, and advancing climate justice. The pastor touched on gun violence and said it is an issue where many miss the point.
“Data has always shown that where there's high poverty, and low education, there's high crime. That speaks to the environment, and culture. When we invest in our communities, it creates environments and cultures of safety,” he said. “We need to pay attention to the way that housing is being developed. I am seeing more apartments and homes that are being turned into rental units than there are actual affordable, accessible family homes. We cannot turn the city into a place where you make everyone rent for the rest of their life. That's not healthy for working families.”
All are issues that affect Philadelphia’s working class more than anyone else. It’s an experience he has personally and it’s why even beyond himself, they remain at the center of his campaign.
“I'm not thinking about what it will mean for me but what it will mean for us collectively,” said O’Rourke. “It will mean a lot to add someone who is focused principally on building a city that values community care, that exemplifies radical love.”
Speaking personally, he has always openly talked about the influence his parents had on him, between instilling a great work ethic and appreciating who he is as a Black person.
“I witnessed their frustrations with the social, political and cultural realities of their friends, their loved ones, and their co-workers,” he said at his launch event this past Wednesday afternoon.
The son of a truck driver and a telephone operator, he has been fighting for the city’s multiracial working families for the better part of a decade. O’Rourke had this piece of advice for any young person who was once in his shoes, or grew up the way he did as a kid.
“There is no nobler work in my opinion than work that is of service to people. Over the generations, we have become an increasingly individualized society where we're very self focused. I would like to encourage any person that may have come up that way I have, to be interested in this and never look down on work that's going to be towards helping people, but to lean into that and pursue,” said O’Rourke. “I believe as long as our values are rooted in community, care, and people, that's a good thing.”
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