Philadelphia Youth in Local Politics: Part 1

<p><em>Credit: Kasey Shamis</em></p>

Credit: Kasey Shamis

Tuesday May 17, 2022 is the Pennsylvania Primary Election. On the ballot are candidates for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, State Senators, and State Representatives. In addition to that, there are local elections being held in our city that are vital to daily issues that affect every resident in every neighborhood.  On the ballot are the very people that every resident has access to in order to have their voices heard and issues raised. These candidates will have a direct impact on our daily lives and our votes are needed to elect them. 

One of these candidates is Abigail Thomas, a Philadelphia Community College student running for the position of committee-person in District 10, in the 21st Division of the 63rd Ward in Northeast Philadelphia.  She is a 2021 graduate of Central High School and grew up in Northeast Philadelphia.  She has her sights set on serving her community and eventually attending law school.  When asked why she chose to run for office, she said, “What motivated me to run is seeing the lack of representation for people who looked like me in Northeast Philly politics.” Ms. Thomas is so interested in government because as a teenager, she felt that she knew very little and didn’t have it all figured out, but at the same time felt that she was misrepresented and wanted more engagement as a result. 


Candidate Abigail Thomas (Photo Courtesy of Abigail Thomas)

Viktor Kagan, another college student and 2020 Central High School graduate, is running for committee-person in District 10, in the 13th Division of the 58th Ward in Northeast Philadelphia. He is a sophomore at Yale University majoring in both Environmental Science and Ethnicity, Race, and Migration. Mr. Kagan is running because, “My committee-people have never knocked on my door, tried to engage me, or get to know me.” He too, feels underrepresented, having never seen his elected committee-person engaging the neighborhood at the most basic level to ensure the community is represented and knows where to go as their needs arise. A lifetime resident of Northeast Philadelphia, he also believes that, ”We need more young people, immigrants, and people of color running for committee-person and higher office,” to represent their respective neighborhoods.  This would allow for their needs to be met and ensure that resources are available and accessible.


Candidate Viktor Kagan (Photo Courtesy of Viktor Kagan)

When asked what advice the two candidates would give to other youth, both emphasized the importance of voting in every election on every level because the elected officials have a direct say in your everyday life. As Mr. Kagan stated, “[Elected Officials] are your neighbors who influence what books you can read in class, what happens to the roads you will be on, where a tree is planted, and how safe you feel.” Ms.Thomas wants our youth to know, “Your vote is precious. There is a reason why so many will do anything to stop it, especially the youth vote. We can swing whole elections with that. Your political power starts with your vote.”

The importance of voting in local elections requires more exposure, information, and participation from all, especially the younger demographics. Elected local officials affect our daily lives and by having access to them through committee-people like candidates Abigail Thomas and Viktor Kagan, that access is guaranteed. The City of Philadelphia has thousands of committee-people whose primary role is to be direct liaisons between the residents and their elected officials on a neighborhood level.  Abigail Thomas and Viktor Kagan hope to become the next committee-people of their respective districts. They are looking to garner the votes they need by this upcoming Tuesday, and secure their first elected office to represent their neighbors.

For more information, the following links are provided on the Pennsylvania Primary, your local candidates, and how to get involved:

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