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Who will represent us?

We must pledge to cast our vote on May 20 and again in the November election. The politicians know our votes count — it's time for them (and us) to understand…

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Your vote in the primaries on May 20 is a vote for more than just an individual candidate — it is a vote of confidence in our community and city

Put nine aspiring and incumbent politicians together in a room full of their actual or intended constituents, and what do you get? Well, if the forum AL DÍA ran on May 8 with the incumbents and contenders for Pa. Legislative Districts 180, 197 and Pa. Senatorial District 2 was any indication, you get astute questions and a lot of passion from audience members.

The space at Esperanza College where the forum was held — smack in middle of the districts of all the political contenders — filled with approximately 200  members of the community who had come to listen to those bidding to represent them. All of the candidates — incumbent and challenger — made time to be at the forum except for the 197th Legislative District's incumbent, JP Miranda.

Once we got past the loudly vociferous supporters planted in the audience by the politicians themselves, the questions asked by AL DÍA's editorial team (reporters Arturo Varela and Ana Gamboa, and managing editor Sabrina Vourvoulias) and ABC-6 reporter Dann Cuellar, as well as those posed by community members without pre-set agendas were smart and pointed.  

What measures will the candidates take to improve the relationship between African-American and Latino residents of the 197th district? Are the legislators  willing to take on the issue of drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants in Harrisburg? Questions about transparency, voter intimidation, political motivation and agenda were all put forth with zeal (you can read the full report about the forum here) and gave lie to the belief that Philadelphia Latino voters are apathetic.

And the candidates answered all the questions posed to them — even if sometimes they derailed by not addressing exactly what was asked. There was passion there too, and shows of composure under fire, and as you can see from our photo, a lot of finger-wagging.

Inevitably in a forum with so many candidates, it was impossible to pose full follow-ups to the candidates' responses as it would have been if the forum had been limited to those vying for just one legislative or senatorial district.

But the forum's breadth was crucially instructive in another way. We don't elect politicians to a vacuum — we elect them to represent us in a state legislature with few other Latino elected officials in senatorial or legislative seats. How do these individuals reflect how we want to be perceived as a voting constituency? How effective might they be in actually addressing our concerns and moving significant legislation from draft to resolution?

While AL DÍA does not endorse any particular candidate in any of the primary races, we were able to observe the candidates close up and under pressure from their opponents and from the very engaged audience members at our forum. 

It was clear for example,  that there is no love lost between the incumbent from the 180th district Ángel Cruz and the challenger Quetcy Lozada, and in their public back-and-forth we catch a glimpse of how they might present themselves, and comport themselves, as members of the legislative chamber in Harrisburg.

Likewise, there were heated moments between those who have received the Philadelphia Democratic City Committee endorsement and those whose runs are not backed by that powerful institution. 

In assessing each of these candidates, let's ask ourselves who will help not only address the concerns we have as individuals and members of specific neighborhoods, but who can best represent our community and our interests in the election in November. 

We must assess not only whether we warm to the candidate's style — scrappy, earnest, charismatic, polished, sophisticated or down-to-earth — but whether the substance of their political agenda is sustainable and clear and unimpeachable. 

Most of all, we must pledge to cast our vote on May 20 and again in the November election. The politicians know our votes count — it's time for them (and us) to understand just how much. See you at the polling place!

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