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David Torres, Republican candidate for Pennsylvania's 2nd Congressional District. (Courtesy photo)
David Torres, Republican candidate for Pennsylvania's 2nd Congressional District. (Courtesy photo)

Republican challenger for Congress faces uphill battle

David Torres is the first-ever Latino to run for U.S. Congress in Philadelphia.

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David Torres faces a tall order by any measure.

As the Republican candidate for Pennsylvania’s 2nd Congressional District, Torres hopes to unseat the heavily favored Democrat, Brendan Boyle, the incumbent from what was the state’s similarly drawn 13th district, in November.

This is Torres’ first foray into politics.

“I’m getting into politics now because things ain’t working out. If you look at the city, when I first came here, jobs were all over the place,” Torres said during an interview with AL DÍA. “There were opportunities to grow, schools were really doing well. Now you have totally the opposite.”

The new 2nd District, which covers northeast Philadelphia plus parts of central and north Philadelphia, is predominantly Democratic. Boyle won his seat by 35 percentage points in 2014, and he won uncontested two years ago. As of June 30, Boyle had raised nearly $1 million in campaign donations; Torres has yet to crack $5,000.

Torres, who is turning 60 this month, has been a resident of West Kensington since he moved to Philadelphia from Brooklyn at the age of 12. Of Puerto Rican descent, he is a small business owner who has previously worked with drug and alcohol programs in the city, and in sales and marketing for HMOs.

A last-minute addition to the Republican ticket, he casts himself as a moderate, willing to work across the aisle, hoping to bridge divides in these hyper-partisan times.

“Right now the country is divided. You can’t get people to agree on the color blue,” he said. “You gotta stop the division.”

The opioid crisis is one issue that knows no political stripes. Philadelphia, and in particular, parts of Kensington, which falls inside the 2nd Congressional District, have been especially hard hit. For Torres, it’s become personal.

“I lost my son over two years ago to a drug overdose. I’ve had the experience and I didn’t catch it,” he said.

“We need to get our act together when it comes to opioids,” he continued. “Stop playing with these people.”

Also atop Torres’ political agenda is immigration. He insists that politicians must divide and conquer in order to properly address the issue.

“The people coming across the border, that’s one issue. The people who are already here with their children, that’s a different issue,” he said.

“We need to secure the border because we don’t know what’s coming across,” he added. “The wall where you can, more patrol where you can.”

Torres, however, takes a softer line on DACA. “We need to make a pathway that’s going to help people coming out of the shadows, and end all this nonsense,” he said.

At the end of the day, Torres points to jobs as the key to improving the lives of his would-be constituents.

“Everything that’s going on, it all comes around jobs. One of my biggest tackles is going to be to get investors to come in,” he pledged.

“I’m going to try to identify people who can come down here to invest some serious money, and then sit down with city mayor, city council, the governor, and say ‘listen, I got XYZ that’s willing to invest.’ Let’s work on giving them tax breaks, whatever it is to attract businesses.”

Despite the long odds, Torres remains focused on the issues, not his opponent.

“I’m running because for the last 10, 15, 20 years you hear from politicians the same stories,” he said. “I’m not running against a particular person, I’m running against what’s happening in the city.”

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