On a cold, overcast morning, congressional candidate Brian Gordon pushed the door of a one-room barbershop for a one-on-one chat.
The topic was violent crime.
Ronald McBeth’s solution calls for providing kids with activities that keep them off the streets. The types he had growing up.
“You had swimming, you had basketball, gymnastics, you got boxing rings down here that could teach them how to fight,” McBeth tells Gordon, one of three Democrats running to replace indicted U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah.
Gordon knowingly shook his head. Other voters in the district have told him the same thing. And to Gordon, there’s no reason why neighborhoods like McBeth’s corner of Southwest Philly can’t provide more, be safer, and offer residents a good school.
It’s why he’s making violence, poverty and education the cornerstones of his campaign.
“Having public schools that don’t prepare students for college or to work in the trades or to work right out of high school contributes to both poverty and crime,” said Gordon.
Gordon’s message is crafted for all voters in the 2nd Congressional District, but geared toward those in Philadelphia.
Roughly 90 percent of all registered voters in the district live in North, Northwest or West Philadelphia. The rest reside in Lower Merion Township.
Political experts still say it could be tough for Gordon to connect with the district’s urban voters.
“The adage that all politics is local matters in races for congressional districts,” said Muhlenberg College pollster Chris Borick.
“One part of the district is very different from the rest of the district, and a candidate from that region trying to make inroads to a different type of environment is not easy.”
Gordon, who lived in Philadelphia for nearly two decades, doesn’t think his suburban ZIP code hurts him.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re from the city or the suburbs. You just have to have a will and a desire to repair the neighborhood and repair the city,” he said.
“Long as he do what he says he going to do, because a lot of politicians and stuff come out here say this and say that, and then they get in there, and they don’t do nothing they say they’re going to do,” said McBeth.
State Rep. Dwight Evans and Philadelphia ward leader Dan Muroff are also running to replace Fattah, who is facing federal corruption charges.
Fattah is charged with racketeering, bribery, wire fraud and other offenses for allegedly misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions, public funds, and charitable donations.
He maintains his innocence. His trial is scheduled to start May 16.