Mark Cohen gets his first challenge in nearly 30 years


State Rep. Mark Co­hen, first elec­ted in 1974, hasn’t faced a primary chal­lenge since 1984, when he crushed Ar­thur M. Holst with 87 per­cent of the vote.

That changed this year, when Numa St. Louis filed as a Demo­crat in the 202nd Le­gis­lat­ive Dis­trict.

St. Louis, 31, a com­mit­tee­man in Ol­ney’s 61st Ward, is giv­ing the vet­er­an  law­maker a spir­ited chal­lenge.

The dis­trict in­cludes Ol­ney, Lo­gan, West Oak Lane, Sum­mer­dale, Lawndale, Ox­ford Circle, Castor Gar­dens and Rhawn­hurst.

Co­hen, 62, lives in Castor Gar­dens.

Last week, the Le­gis­lat­ive Re­ap­por­tion­ment Com­mis­sion passed a map that takes away the Ol­ney, Lo­gan, West Oak Lane and Rhawn­hurst areas of the dis­trict and adds Burholme.

If St. Louis wins — no Re­pub­lic­an filed in the race — he would have to move to run for re-elec­tion, since his cur­rent res­id­ence would be in Dwight Evans’ 203rd dis­trict for the 2014 cam­paign. He be­lieves re­dis­trict­ing should be done by a neut­ral pan­el.

“There’s a lot of deal-mak­ing. The pro­cess is not trans­par­ent or demo­crat­ic,” he said.

St. Louis has the sup­port of City Coun­cil­wo­man Cindy Bass; the Phil­adelphia chapter of the Na­tion­al Or­gan­iz­a­tion for Wo­men Polit­ic­al Ac­tion Com­mit­tee; the Afric­an Carib­bean Polit­ic­al Ac­tion Com­mit­tee; former City Coun­cil can­did­ate Andy Toy; and Shar­on Wil­li­ams Lo­si­er, his aunt and the Demo­crat­ic lead­er of the 61st Ward.

Co­hen said he has the sup­port of the oth­er six ward lead­ers in the dis­trict, though St. Louis said he will have sup­port­ers at every polling place in the dis­trict.

The in­cum­bent dis­misses much of his op­pon­ent’s sup­port, con­tend­ing that the in­di­vidu­als and most mem­bers of the or­gan­iz­a­tions back­ing him don’t even live in the dis­trict.

“He’s try­ing to rep­res­ent Cen­ter City, Chest­nut Hill and West Mount Airy,” Co­hen said.

Co­hen be­lieves he will be boos­ted by the sup­port of the city and state AFL-CIO, Fraternal Or­der of Po­lice and teach­ers’ uni­ons; the Guard­i­an Civic League; Philly for Change; and Hu­mane PA.

“I have all sorts of or­gan­iz­a­tions back­ing me,” he said.

St. Louis, whose back­ground is in edu­ca­tion, youth de­vel­op­ment and com­munity in­volve­ment, wants to use the tax rev­en­ue from nat­ur­al gas drilling to fund im­prove­ments to in­fra­struc­ture, pub­lic edu­ca­tion and health care.

The can­did­ate fa­vors ad­di­tion­al gun safety laws, an in­crease in com­munity poli­cing and a fo­cus on re­du­cing tru­ancy. He’d also re­cruit new busi­nesses to com­mer­cial cor­ridors on Castor Av­en­ue and Fifth Street and the area sur­round­ing the busy in­ter­sec­tion of Broad Street and Ol­ney Av­en­ue.

The pris­on budget is too high, he main­tains. The fund­ing, he be­lieves, should be dir­ec­ted to day care, early child­hood edu­ca­tion and ment­or­ing.

“We have to in­vest in young people,” he said.

St. Louis dubs Co­hen a “PINO” — a “Pro­gress­ive In Name Only.” He’s cam­paign­ing on door­steps and at com­munity for­ums. He’s also erec­ted bill­boards, in­clud­ing one on Levick Street.

“I’m look­ing people in the eye and telling them we can do bet­ter after forty years, but that it re­quires a change of lead­er­ship,” he said. “I’m hav­ing a good time meet­ing people and cris­scross­ing the dis­trict. People think it’s re­fresh­ing that they have a choice. I’m of­fer­ing a dif­fer­ent kind of lead­er­ship.”

If elec­ted, he prom­ises to be ac­cess­ible and re­spons­ive. He would open a han­di­capped-ac­cess­ible dis­trict of­fice and hold pub­lic for­ums on is­sues of im­port­ance to seni­or cit­izens, youth and busi­nesses.

“Provid­ing top-notch con­stitu­ent ser­vice would be crit­ic­al to my of­fice,” he said. “I think I’m more in tune with res­id­ents. I think I’m the ideal choice to rep­res­ent the dis­trict in Har­ris­burg.”

Co­hen is con­fid­ent of a big vic­tory.

“I ex­pect to win very de­cis­ively,” he said.

The in­cum­bent has fo­cused over the years on is­sues such as in­creas­ing the min­im­um wage and provid­ing funds for the School Dis­trict of Phil­adelphia, loc­al col­leges and uni­versit­ies, hos­pit­als and SEPTA.

Co­hen is re­mind­ing voters in mail­ings of his ac­com­plish­ments.

“I’ve shown an abil­ity to get things done on be­half of the people,” he said. ••End­Frag­ment 

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