Richie Antipuna says it’s time for a change in city politics, and he believes he’s the man to bring that change to City Hall.
But, it seems the political newcomer will need to wait to achieve his goal.
Last week, after hearing that he could be removed from a ballot if his candidacy for City Commissioner was legally challenged, Antipuna withdrew from the race — followed by a characteristic concession speech from his backyard pool.
Antipuna’s concern was that he was listed as a registered Democrat after the May primaries, but, he intended to run as the Green Party candidate — it would be too short of a time period to claim a new party affiliation, he said.
The 39-year-old married father of three said in an interview last week that he vows to continue fighting for the community, even if he will need to wait until he can again run for office.
“My activism comes from my childhood,” he said.
Except for a spell when he worked in South Philly as a crane operator at the Navy Yard, Antipuna has lived in Kensington his whole life.
He lives near Somerset and Memphis streets. Supporting the community always has been his passion.
In fact, it’s this passion that led him to create The Richie Antipuna Show, a local news show he does with childhood friend, Heather Barton. Their “Kenzo News,” a much rawer online spin off with plenty of self-deprecating humor, has also been been popular.
Antipuna said film has been a passion since he was 12, after he got his first camera and, with friends, filmed his own version of The Great Train Robbery on the nearby Conrail tracks.
Last November, when he started The Richie Antipuna Show — a weekly local news program shown Thursday nights at 8 p.m. on PhillyCam, a community access channel on channel 66 on Comcast and channel 29 on Verizon Fios — Antipuna said he wanted the show to be a way to provide Kensington with a program focused on the neighborhood.
But, just about the time he started the program, news media flooded the community to investigate the violent crimes of Antonio Rodriguez, dubbed the Kensington Strangler.
“That hit a spot with me, calling it ‘The Kensington Strangler,’” recalled Antipuna. “I didn’t like that at all. It was like ‘There they go, putting down Kensington again’ … I’m sick of the bad press.”
Antipuna wanted to fight what he saw as a bad reputation the news media was putting on the neighborhood.
Now, with a desire to enter city politics, Antipuna said, he wants to show that not only is Kensington not the crime-ridden ghetto it’s often described as, but a vibrant, healthy, blue-collar community that deserves a say in City Hall.
“I never wanted to be a politician, and I still don’t,” he said. “But, politics are supposed to be for the people.”
In May, the Philadelphia Green Party selected Antipuna as its candidate for City Commissioner.
Antipuna said the position would have enabled him to bring issues that are important to “the regular guy” to the attention of elected officials.
And, he said, Kensington is underrepresented in City Hall.
According to Antipuna, the area sees typically low voter turnout during elections, but that’s something he believes he can change as a neighborhood guy.
In fact, he claims he quickly gathered 4,000 signatures for his petition to run for office and a Facebook page he created to help catch the Kensington Strangler received more than 10,000 members.
Antipuna, who owns, but is in the process of selling, the Crazy Leprechaun at 3589 Richmond St., said the people of Kensington are willing to vote and speak their minds, they just need someone to get behind.
“I feel like I am the Ralph Nader of Philadelphia,” he said. “If people want to change what’s going on in City Hall, you have to fight to get there … People don’t know the power they have in their finger, just to push that [election] button.”
One of his election pledges would have been to give a chunk of his salary back to constituents.
“I don’t even know what I’d make, but I’d donate 20 percent of that back to the community, why not?” said Antipuna. “I’d do that job for free.”
Even though he now has taken his hat from the ring for City Commissioner, Antipuna said it’s only a matter of time before he runs for office again.
“I ain’t stopping,” he said confidently. “I’ll make a career out of this.”
Next for Antipuna? He’s thinking of running for state representative in his home district.
And if that doesn’t work, he’ll try again, because as long as he’s in an office, Antipuna said, he will be able to change the city for the better.
“I’m just a regular guy,” said Antipuna. “But, once I’m in there, I can get to the people in power and say what needs to be said.”••
Reporter Hayden Mitman can be reached at 215-354-3124 or firstname.lastname@example.org