Former Judge Nelson Diaz announces for mayor [photos]

Surrounded by many leaders of the city’s Latino community, former Philadelphia Judge Nelson Diaz announced his candidacy for mayor Thursday, saying fixing the city’s schools is a critical priority.

“It is awful, it is criminal what we’re doing to our kids,” Diaz told reporters after his formal announcement. “And the reason I’m in this race — because you know I can do a lot of other things — are one, I know I can win, and, two, I’m going to fix the school system no matter what. I will die fixing those school systems.”

Diaz didn’t offer a specific proposal for funding the schools, but said that on his first day in office, he would convene a meeting of the governor, the City Council president, and the leader of the teachers union, “and the four us should sit down and figure out how we’re going to educate our children.”

Diaz announced his candidacy at a North Philadelphia restaurant in a speech peppered with Spanish and focused on bringing educational and economic opportunity to the city’s neediest children.

Diaz, who grew up in a Puerto Rican family in Harlem, now has deep ties to Philadelphia’s Hispanic community. But he said he’s also worked to improved African-American, Asian, and white neighborhoods.

Diaz begins the race known to political insiders, but not many voters. He’s a partner in the blue-chip Dilworth Paxson law firm.

He served as a common pleas judge from 1981 through 1993, the first Latino judge in Pennsylvania, according to his law firm biography. He was also general counsel of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in the Clinton administration.

He served as city solicitor under Mayor John Street after Street’s initial appointee, Ken Trujillo. left the government to return to private practice. Both are now candidates for mayor.

Other declared candidates include state Sen. Anthony Williams, former District Attorney Lynne Abraham, communications executive Doug Oliver, and former state Sen. Milton Street.

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