Minister joins the hunt for Brady’s seat in Congress

Kevin Johnson announces his candidacy for the 1st Congressional District seat to be vacated by Bob Brady.

Kevin Johnson announces his candidacy for the 1st Congressional District seat to be vacated by Bob Brady. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Another candidate has joined the crowded field of Democrats hoping to replace U.S. Rep Bob Brady, who announced Wednesday he won’t seek re-election this year.

Kevin Johnson, a minister and CEO of Philadelphia OIC, a 50-year-old job training program, declared his candidacy Friday morning to about 100 cheering supporters.

Johnson praised Brady, calling him “a champion for our region,” then quickly said he would not be a candidate “connected to the non-progressive political structure.”

And he promised to be a “bold, innovative and progressive” candidate who fights for the poor and forgotten.

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Johnson, who has headed Philadelphia OIC since 2015, said he’d tripled its budget and expanded its job-training reach.

Before taking that job, Johnson was pastor for seven years at Bright Hope Baptist Church, the venerable 107-year-old house of worship in North Philadelphia that was led for years by U.S. Rep. William H. Gray III.

The end of Johnson’s tenure at Bright Hope was marked by controversy; members complained about his treatment of some longtime members and what they regarded as a lack of transparency on the church’s financial dealings, according to media reports.

Asked about that after his announcement, Johnson said he loves the people of Bright Hope and that he’s proud of his work there and the growth in membership while he was pastor.

Johnson is now pastor of the Dare to Imagine Church in East Mt. Airy, which he founded.

He said the church has grown from 20 members to more than 600 in just a year.

Prospects and a problem

Johnson’s announcement was well attended. Among the crowd was Bill Hyers, a nationally-known political consultant, who managed Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter’s come-from-behind win in 2007 and New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s victory in 2013.

Hyers’ company, Hilltop Public Solutions, is a general consultant to Johnson’s campaign and produced his biographical video.

One potential problem confronting Johnson and the other candidates for Brady’s seat is the court-ordered redistricting that could occur in the coming weeks.

It’s possible Philadelphia’s three congressional districts will shrink to two, plus a small piece of a third. That could put Johnson in the position of having to run against one of the city’s two incumbent representatives, Dwight Evans and Brendan Boyle.

Asked if he were prepared to run against Evans if they’re in the same district, Johnson had no immediate answer.

“We’ll have to see what the courts are going to say and what the legislature is going to say,” he said. “Let’s let the process play out.”

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