Republican battling to hang on in Northeast Philly

    Pennsylvania state Rep. Martina White (left)and her Democratic opponent Matt Darragh.(Pennsylvania House of Representatives

    Pennsylvania state Rep. Martina White (left)and her Democratic opponent Matt Darragh.(Pennsylvania House of Representatives

    While the presidential contest is making headlines, there’s a donnybrook of a legislative race in far northeast Philadelphia over whether the Republican party will keep a beachhead it captured in heavily-Democratic Philadelphia.

    For years, Republican John Taylor was the GOP’s only member of the city’s Harrisburg delegation.

    But last year, a feud among Democrats helped Martina White, then a 26-year old financial analyst, capture a another seat for the Republicans.

    She’s been an state representative, pushing legislation to ban Philadelphia’s so-called “sanctuary city” policy of not routinely honoring detainer requests from immigration authorities.

    When Republican U.S. Senator Pat Toomey held a news conference on the issue in August, White was at his side, a measure of the party’s investment in building her stature and hopefully winning her re-election.

    And in this cornerHer Democratic opponent is 31 year-old Matt Darragh, a regional manager in the Pennsylvania Auditor General’s office.

    I asked him what he would say to those who argue Philadelphia would do better in Harrisburg with a few Republicans like White, who had the ear of Republican leaders who dominate the legislature in Harrisburg.

    “Republicans in Harrisburg don’t really have a lot of regard for Philadelphia,” Darragh said, “and while Representative White and Representative Taylor might be a voice in the room, if you watch the track record, you see what this caucus’s agenda is – they’re anti-labor, they’re anti-choice, they’re anti Philadelphia, and they’re certainly anti-public education.”

    Representative White didn’t return my call last week.

    Her mailings and ads associate Darragh with the sanctuary city policy, and with a host of Democratic politicians who’ve been convicted on corruption charges. Darragh says that’s unfair, that he has nothing to do with those officials.

    Democrats have a big registration edge in the district. Both candidates have some labor backing and funding from the state parties. This will be one to watch on Election Day.

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