Educator and two-time City Council also-ran Isaiah Thomas has launched a third bid for an at-large council seat.
Thomas, 34, on Monday announced his candidacy for May’s Democratic Party primary. If elected to one of the seven at-large City Council seats, the city native would become the youngest person on the 17-member body.
Thomas said the quality of life for the average Philadelphia resident has not improved and current elected leaders are failing to provide adequate services to young people.
“People view this city as a city that is growing and moving in great places, and there are certain pockets of this city where that is true,” he said. “But in other pockets of this city, it’s not true.”
Thomas added, “When I look at the quality of life of children across the city of Philadelphia and I look at the lack of resources that they have — the terrible schools that they go to, the opportunities that do not exist as it relates to quality initiatives, both in the summertime and after school — I think it warrants someone like me to run for office.”
Thomas said his campaign will focus on some of the most significant hurdles facing Philadelphia, including improving the educational system, building coalitions with groups and addressing criminal justice reform.
He also called for changes to the school curriculum that could better prepare students for higher education or a vocation; modifying the 10-year tax abatement; and providing more funding and resources for summer jobs and initiatives for young people.
Thomas is executive director of Philadelphia Freedom Schools and a head basketball coach at Sankofa Freedom Academy Charter School.
He worked as director of community affairs in the City Controller’s Office from 2015 to 2018. He also previously taught at Lincoln University and in the Philadelphia School District.
A graduate of Frankford High School, Thomas has a bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University and a master’s degree in education from Lincoln University.
Thomas said he has learned much from his two unsuccessful campaigns.
“It’s very difficult to win a council race, but I think that I’ve positioned myself — as far as being a coalition leader … as far as the work that I’ve done in communities and neighborhoods — that I feel like I can put together a campaign to put me over the top,” Thomas said.
Thomas improved on his 2011 bid by garnering 48,000 votes in the 2015 Democratic primary. But he acknowledged the political winds have shifted since then, opening the door for new, progressive candidates who have beaten incumbents.
Following the election of President Donald Trump, voters elected Larry Krasner, a progressive district attorney who has put into place criminal justice reforms, and Rebecca Rhynhart as city controller. Rhynhart beat out an entrenched incumbent.
The November midterm election drew high turnout across the state. During the off-year election, Democrats in Harrisburg chipped away at Republican majorities in the House of Representatives and Senate. Democrats netted about 11 seats in the House and about five in the Senate, and Republican majorities were expected to be about 110-93 in the House and 29-21 in the Senate next year.
The deadline for candidates to file their nominating petitions for the May primary is March 12.
More candidates are already lining up to challenge incumbents in City Council primaries and other city offices.
In the Democratic primary for City Council, several people have declared their candidacies for at-large seats, including Asa Khalif, a vocal city activist; the Rev. Lewis Nash, pastor of Faith and Deliverance Outreach Ministry in North Central Philadelphia; and Sherrie Cohen, a social justice activist who has run for city office in the past.
Kendall Hayes-Fullard, 54, a community activist, has announced her intent to run for City Council as an Independent.
While Democrats overwhelmingly outnumber Republicans in the city, two at-large seats are set aside for members of minority political parties.
As for the mayoral primary, Mayor Jim Kenney, a Democrat, will seek re-election. State representative and city controller Alan Butkovitz has declared his candidacy for mayor in the Democratic primary.