A 27-year-old West Philadelphian has launched a challenge to state Rep. James Roebuck, who has held the 188th Legislative District seat for almost as long as she’s been alive.
Fatimah Muhammad hopes to capture the seat and bring a fresh perspective to the state house.
“It’s time to be able to let fresh ideas, new perspectives come to the table,” she said. “I am young, with fresh ideas, and I’m a woman. There is a time for change, and the time is now.”
She will be on the April 24 ballot.
All of Muhammad’s priorities hinge on one thing — education.
“I’m passionate about education,” she said, noting that she has been an educator and community organizer.
If the district’s children are properly educated, jobs and safer streets will follow, she said, noting that those three things are her top priorities for the district.
Muhammad faces stiff competition from Roebuck, who has held the seat for 25 years and has powerful political support.
“We are going to send Jim back to Harrisburg,” said Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers said at a recent gathering of Roebuck’s supporters. “Nothing beats experience.”
It is Muhammad’s first attempt at running for public office.
She chose to run for state representative as a way to demonstrate to young people that aiming high is important.
“I want them to know their potential — so I say: ‘Aim high. Aim big,’” she said. “I know that as a state rep, I can make a difference.”
However, she said her professional and personal experiences have prepared her to represent the people of West Philadelphia.
“I know what it’s like to be hungry and to feel left behind. I said that if I ever get out of that situation, that I would do anything in my power to make sure other children won’t go through what I went through,” she said. “Policy for me is not theoretical, it’s personal.”
Too often, she said, politicians forget that.
“We’re representing real people,” she said.
As someone who has worked for 10 years as a community activist, Muhammad is confident that she can navigate the partisan atmosphere in Harrisburg.
“I’m someone who’s been doing things in the community,” she said. “I’m not a stranger to challenging conversation.”
Her experience has given her a pragmatism she said will serve her constituents well in the capitol.
“I’m not some idealist who read in a book how to do this. I’ve lived it. I’m a fighter, I fought my way to where I am,” she said.
Muhammad grew up in Plainfield, N.J. and has lived in the Clark Park area for about 10 years. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in sociology in 2006.