Benjamin

Southwest Philadelphia ward leader Gregory Benjamin announced his candidacy on Saturday in taking on state Rep. James Roebuck in 188th Legislative District.

— TRIBUNE PHOTO / NATHANIEL LEE

Southwest Philadelphia ward leader Gregory Benjamin announced his candidacy on Saturday to become the state representative for the 188th Legislative District during a press conference at the Kingsessing Library, 1201 S. 51st St.

Benjamin was joined by his family and supporters as he pitched his platform, whose aims include improving the services and quality of life for those living in the district that include a large part of University City.

“I’m looking at all of these faces and I have these notes here but I’m not really good at following scripts so I’m going to put this down if you don’t mind,” he said. “I just want to bring it from the heart.

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“I think everyone understands that we need change, and this is not just some ploy to get another title or anything like that,” Benjamin added. “So, why am I running? I’m running because I care.”

The 51st Ward leader described himself as a compassionate man with a connection to the neighborhood — calling out people in the audience by name.

“We need leadership that has a relationship with the area schools in our community,” said Benjamin, who was elected to his current post in 2014. “We need leadership that has grass-roots connections.”

Mental health, community safety and economic improvements to the area are among his other concerns, which Benjamin plans to address if elected to service at the state Capitol.

“I’ve known Greg Benjamin for approximately 10 years because, through my involvement at the church, we’ve kind of made a commitment to this Kingsessing Neighborhood,” said Drick Boyd of the West Philadelphia Mennonite Church at 4740 Baltimore Ave.

“Through that I’ve gotten to know Greg and what impressed me was that he’s a person who really values relationships, and when you’re with him you’re like the most important person to him, and it doesn’t matter who you are, he sees you as a valuable person,” Boyd said.

Boyd said he was not only impressed by the depths of Benjamin’s love for the community, but his ability to organize others to join in efforts to improve it.

“I see him as a person of integrity,” Boyd said. “We’re in a time when people really don’t trust politicians and I really believe — although I think it’s going to be tough — that Greg will be a person who says what he means and will do what he says.”

Christina Griffin Williams, the 51st Ward committee woman, called Benjamin’s announcement exciting.

“I think I’m more excited than Greg is,” said the longtime Southwest Philadelphia resident.

“It has been a pleasure to work with him on the 51st Ward and it’s even more of a pleasure to know that he is going to be our next state rep,” Williams added with a great deal of optimism.

Benjamin is challenging state Rep. James Roebuck Jr. a Democrat who has represented the 188th Legislative District since 1985. Roebuck was unavailable to comment.

The incumbent and challenger are expected to face each other in the spring. The filing deadline for the April 28 primary is Feb. 18.

Contact Johann Calhoun at newseditor@phillytrib.com or call at (215) 893-5739

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