Northeast Times

Dunbar hopes to take the 177th

Demo­crat­ic can­did­ate for state rep­res­ent­at­ive, Wil­li­am Dun­bar, makes his case in hopes of un­seat­ing long­time rep­res­ent­at­ive John Taylor (R-177th dist.).

Le­gis­lat­ive elec­tions are just around the corner, and this year, there’s a new face in the mix. 

Demo­crat Wil­li­am Dun­bar, a fresh-faced 27-year-old, will run in Novem­ber against in­cum­bent Re­pub­lic­an John Taylor for his 177th dis­trict seat in the Pennsylvania House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives.

Taylor has rep­res­en­ted the dis­trict — which cov­ers most of the river­ward neigh­bor­hoods, in­clud­ing Port Rich­mond, Brides­burg and Fishtown, and parts of Ju­ni­ata and Wissi­nom­ing — for 27 years. 

Be­cause of Taylor’s long ten­ure, Dun­bar views his own cam­paign as a polit­ic­al ver­sion of the story of Dav­id and Go­liath. Yet he has faith that his youth­ful en­ergy and con­tem­por­ary ideas will lead him to vic­tory. 

Dur­ing a re­cent in­ter­view, Dun­bar ex­plained that he has de­voted him­self to a ca­reer — and a life — fo­cused on pub­lic ser­vice. Born and raised in the Over­brook Farms sec­tion of Phil­adelphia, Dun­bar went to Lin­coln Uni­versity and re­ceived his un­der­gradu­ate de­gree in polit­ic­al sci­ence and crim­in­al justice; he earned his mas­ter’s de­gree in gov­ern­ment ad­min­is­tra­tion from the Uni­versity of Pennsylvania.

Dun­bar lives in Port Rich­mond with his wife, Fay Mar­ie, and their three chil­dren.

“When I moved to Port Rich­mond with my wife about four years ago, we did so be­cause we thought it was a great neigh­bor­hood. The mom-and-pop shops on every corner, the com­munity as­pect, the neigh­bor­hood feel with a big city vibe … we loved that and we wanted to be part of it, to raise our fam­ily in it,” he said. “But what I began to real­ize was that we needed more re­sources in our com­munity, and a more act­ive role from our cur­rent lead­ers. This real­iz­a­tion is really what promp­ted me to run.”

If he wins, it wouldn’t be Dun­bar’s first ex­pos­ure to polit­ic­al of­fice. He has been spe­cial as­sist­ant to U.S. Rep. Chaka Fat­tah (D-2nd dist.), was dir­ect­or of com­munity en­gage­ment un­der state Rep. Tony Payton (D-179th dist.), served as dir­ect­or of chil­dren and youth pro­grams at the United Com­munit­ies of South­east­ern Phil­adelphia — a non-profit that fo­cuses on build­ing self-sus­tain­ing com­munit­ies — and has had an act­ive role in the CORE Philly Schol­ar­ship Pro­gram, the Urb­an Edu­ca­tion Fund, and oth­er com­munity pro­grams.

But he knows that un­seat­ing an in­cum­bent, es­pe­cially a long­stand­ing and well-re­garded civil ser­vant like John Taylor, is no easy task.

But Dun­bar says he’s up for the chal­lenge. 

As he sees it, a fresh out­look is needed to de­liv­er changes for the bet­ter.

ldquo;We need bet­ter schools. We need bet­ter crime pro­tec­tion for our cit­izens. We need more po­lice on the streets. And we need more so­cial re­sources,” he said. “And God knows, we don’t need any more rep­res­ent­at­ives vot­ing for our gov­ernor and his despic­able budget.”

Taylor’s hands-on ap­proach to com­munity ac­tion has earned him much sup­port over the years. He’s known loc­ally for crack­ing down against com­munity and school vi­ol­ence and ad­dress­ing the urb­an de­cay and blight is­sues that have plagued the com­munity.

Com­par­at­ively, Dun­bar’s polit­ic­al plat­form fo­cuses on four main com­pon­ents: edu­ca­tion, crime, the eco­nomy and hous­ing.

Al­though he sup­ports the need to ad­dress blighted prop­er­ties, Dun­bar wants to keep edu­ca­tion re­form at the fore­front.

“It is in­hu­mane for chil­dren to be im­prisoned in these fail­ing schools be­cause of where they live. My main plat­form sur­rounds edu­ca­tion­al op­por­tun­ity and fig­ur­ing out how we can cre­ate these op­por­tun­it­ies in a struc­tured and sus­tain­able way where we’re all win­ning,” Dun­bar said.

If Dun­bar proves suc­cess­ful in the Novem­ber elec­tion, the state House will of­fer his first po­s­i­tion as an elec­ted of­fi­cial.

He doesn’t re­gard his youth as a dis­ad­vant­age. It seems his sup­port­ers don’t, either.

Grant Ven­er­able, former seni­or vice pres­id­ent at Lin­coln Uni­versity, has faith in Dun­bar’s abil­ity.

“I have watched Will grow from youth to the man he is today. His abil­ity to have such enorm­ous vis­ion at such a young age, but also the ma­tur­ity to re­main bal­anced, is ex­traordin­ary,” said Ven­er­able. “He real­izes that, with an ob­lig­a­tion to a lar­ger com­munity, we can be­come a bet­ter so­ci­ety. Re­tain­ing the val­ues of older gen­er­a­tions and ap­ply­ing them to form new val­ues will have a spillover ef­fect  … he is twenty-first cen­tury.”

Dun­bar said he un­der­stands that voters may re­cog­nize Taylor as a fa­mil­i­ar face, but will they still feel he’s the best can­did­ate?

“Rep­res­ent­at­ive Taylor and I have not met, but I wel­come the con­ver­sa­tion with him,” said Dun­bar. “At this point we need rep­res­ent­at­ives in our com­munity that are fo­cused on the work at hand. My dis­trict is one that needs at­ten­tion. We need a rep­res­ent­at­ive who is there, fight­ing, every day for that com­munity. I’m here to fight, to shake hands and kiss ba­bies. I’m a young face, new, with fresh ideas. The first step to­ward pro­gress is get­ting me elec­ted … change comes one seat at a time.”

For more in­form­a­tion on Wil­li­am Dun­bar’s cam­paign, vis­it www.wil­li­amf­dun­bar.com.

You can reach at ebrooks@bsmphilly.com.

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