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Pictured: María Quiñones-Sánchez speaks with parents at school playground
Quiñones-Sánchez hopes her record will speak for her campaigning efforts for Philadelphia's upcoming mayoral race. Photo: Jared Piper/PHL Council

Philadelphia gets a mayoral second wind, María believes she’s a breath of fresh air

The four-term Councilmember believes her experience and track record speak for her bid. She plans to spend the next few months building on that history.

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“I understood when I started in 2008 that I had a time limit to do what needed to be done,” acknowledged longtime District 7 Councilmember María Quiñones-Sánchez about her time in city chambers, where she spent 14 years fortifying her legislative agenda prior to her resignation in advance of a mayoral bid earlier on Tuesday, Sept. 6. 

Although Quiñones-Sánchez’s long pondered a mayoral run was more of a “when” question for constituents, the Councilmember leveraged her position in City Council as a learning opportunity, and to establish herself within Philadelphia’s political rabble. 

A representative all too familiar with the state of play

She rose to Council following a scandalous conviction for bribery, landing former Councilmember Richard Mariano in jail for five years. Mariano was her predecessor and repped the district for a decade before his own undoing. 

When Quiñones-Sánchez was a teenager in the 7th District, she saw first-hand at the time how bribery, extortion, and conspiracy brought down Councilmember Harry Janotti by way of an FBI sting operation in 1983. 

She told AL DÍA in February 2022 that she faced the result of her predecessor’s work, which left her with an apathetic community. 

“I try to explain to them that it’s because [Latinos] don’t see a value in their vote because they’ve experienced all of this corruption,” she told AL DÍA at the time. 

During her time on City Council, she often found herself on the sidelines — a solitary voice against corrupt dealings within city Chambers when authorities convicted former Councilmember Bobby Henon and union boss John Dougherty. 

Quiñones-Sánchez’s 14-year tenure marked the end of a crooked era for Philadelphia’s 7th District and the beginning of government reform. 

“I’ve always said I never received the support of my political party because my party is the people,” she said, noting her work in Council wasn’t always favored. 

“I represent a district where there has always been rampant corruption. It’s part of the reason why I’ve had to constantly combat these notions,” she added.

Her time in Council, she says, was a classroom for drafting and pushing legislation forward to reverse decades of political rot, a presence she was acutely aware of during her time at the seat. 

Most recently, she authored a bill that caps a city rep’s salary at $25,000 for all side jobs held. 

When she was elected, Quiñones-Sánchez became the first Latina to represent Kengsinton at the City level, although for her, it’s as much about her qualifications as it is about her heritage. 

“I’m very proud to be afro Latina and very proud of being Puerto Rican but this candidacy is about qualifications. It’s important that our community understands that when one looks at and evaluates the qualifications of other candidates, I am better equipped to lead, given the state of Philadelphia,” she said. 

She also told AL DÍA that despite rumors of tempestuous professional relationships, she is focused on continuing partnerships to further the work she began in 2008. 

“Currently, support in my district is solid. There’s only one person, obviously because he has ambitions to receive a second pension from the city and that’s why he resigned his position in the state, and I believe that after 22 years and a service letter, he shouldn’t be in Council,” Quiñones-Sánchez said.

On gun reform

Where legislation is concerned, Quiñones-Sánchez hopes to engage in gun reform, but believes the issue lies in community disinvestment. Even so, she remarked on the uphill battle lawmakers face when crafting policy to address one of Philadelphia’s most pervasive issues. 

“In this space, we’ve tried through several pieces of legislation to get the state, who are ultimately the ones to give us permission to control guns in the city, but it’s never happened (...) We’ve been engaged in several lawsuits to get guns under control but it’s never materialized,” she said. 

And though she noted the work of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, she says that for reform to be necessary, the courts play a leading role. 

“The Mayor has to provide leadership so that agendas have a common goal. We need to make sure there is a fair judicial process that doesn’t abuse the Black community that has historically been the victims of a criminal system that’s not so just,” said Quiñones-Sánchez.

“For that, you need leadership. Someone who says there is a problem with the system. Let’s fix it,” she continued.

When asked if she would declare a State of Emergency over gun violence, Quiñones-Sánchez didn’t specify, citing the need to address the issue at the community level. 

“It’s important to recognize that not all communities receive the same attention or adequate investments (...) When we talk about creating opportunities in districts like the one I represent, it’s a cost, and we have to change this mentality,” she said.

“If we take care of our most vulnerable, and we provide them with quality of life, you can live in a low-income community in a clean, secure, and dignified way. But that takes investment,” she added. 

In the coming months, Quiñones-Sánchez said she plans to dive into communities outside her district to get a better understanding of what they require. While the city works to return to normalcy, she said normal is not the way forward.

“What’s normal has never been fair for us.” 

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