Rep. Mark Cohen and Jared Solomon discuss the April 26 primary, Cohen’s defeat and what comes next.
Using the wisdom associated with the name, Jared Solomon won’t look back after defeating longtime state Rep. Mark Cohen in the 202nd District on April 26.
He’d rather talk about what will happen when he inherits Cohen’s seat on Nov. 30, rather than rehash the drama behind his victory.
On the other hand, the soon-to-be 67-year-old Cohen accuses his much younger opponent of “lying” and misleading voters about his record. Plus, he’s disturbed about the way the area was “redistricted,” claiming that cut significantly into his support base.
“Mr. Solomon alleged that I used taxpayer money to buy a home in Harrisburg,” said Cohen, who’s on the verge of setting two records in terms of service time within Pennsylvania. “What’s true is I did buy a home in Harrisburg, but it’s totally untrue that I got one penny for expenses for the home.
“He diversified facts, saying that I bought a home in Harrisburg and didn’t care about the district. He blamed me for crime in the district and that streets weren’t clean, which is not my duty as a state legislator.
“The people who voted against me made their decision based on a totally false premise. Certainly, voters have the right to choose who they want, but I think it was a vicious and bold campaign.”
Solomon refused to address those charges.
“The election is over. It’s time for us to move on,” said the 37-year-old Solomon, who received 57 percent of the vote to Cohen’s 43 percent. “I want to thank Mark for his 42 years with the commonwealth and to the community here.
“The reason I won is because the message resonated. The message was very clear: We needed to do better in the community. The community had suffered a 16 percent increase in poverty since 1999. The business corridor had been depleted. Household income was down 17 percent between 2000 and 2008.
“So, we have to do a better job addressing quality of life issues [and] absentee landlords that have plagued our community. On the legislative side, we need to work across the aisle and not hunker down in our Republican and Democrat [bunkers].
“We need to work together to build a broad-based coalition to pass substantive legislation.”
While he’ll have to wait nearly six months before taking office — since he’ll be running unopposed in the general election — the man who still lives in the same Castor Gardens section of the Northeast where he grew up, plans to be busy during that span.
“We’re gonna do a ton,” said Solomon, who was just starting to catch up on all that lost sleep a few days after his election. “We’ll start doing constituent service and continue reaching out to members of the community.
“We need to demystify the role of government. I just think a lot of people don’t know what a state rep can do. One of the things we need to do is make sure people know what services we provide and make us as accessible as possible.
“My goal is to convey to the people the approach I’ll have, which is hands on. Let them know they have someone willing to tackle challenges we face in the district, which is really going through a hard transition.
“But I’m so excited to get started.”
Until he does, though, Cohen intends to make his presence felt, passing two milestones along the way.
On July 2, he’ll break Mike O’Pake’s record for the longest time served by a Democrat in the state Legislature.
And by the time Cohen leaves office, he’ll surpass Norman Wood in terms of longevity within either party.
“I’m very proud of my record,” said Cohen, who wouldn’t rule out seeking office again somewhere down the road. “It’s a record of hard work and legislative results.
“My term expires Nov. 30, and I will try to be as effective as I can be until then. My hope is we can work with the same bipartisan spirit that enabled us to pass medical marijuana legislation. I would hope we could work on funding for public schools and extra human services.
“I would hope there are things we could agree on, but I really don’t know.”
He also doesn’t know how this would’ve played out had more in the local Jewish community rallied to his support.
“More liberal Jews were for me,” said Cohen, son of former Philadelphia City Councilman David Cohen, who indicated that he plans to meet with Solomon in the near future. “More conservatives were for Mr. Solomon. He has many older backers.
“But I’m not bitter. I’ve been around for a long time. I’ve long known anybody can be defeated for any number of reasons. My family members were very much hurt by the negative campaign of Mr. Solomon. We’ll all get through it, and I plan to be active in public life in Philadelphia for many years to come.”
As for Solomon, his time is just about to begin. After losing to Cohen by just 158 votes in 2014 he said it took a while to recover.
“Once you realize what you could’ve done better, you put the bigger picture in focus,” explained Solomon, whose great grandfather owned C and W Kosher Butchers in the Northeast, one of many kosher establishments now gone. “That worked — at least for me.
“The message this time was pretty similar. It was just more outreach, and we had a more aggressive approach. It makes sense; a new direction is needed. It’s a great day for the Northeast.”
Many of those same voters also helping another Jew, Josh Shapiro, win the Democratic primary for attorney general.
“I know Josh. He’s a great guy,” Solomon said. “I look forward to working with him in Harrisburg. “These are exciting times. You have a lot of new, young folks coming into the Legislature. You have an exciting general election, and you have people coming in who want to work in a bipartisan way and really address issues.
“So, I can’t wait.”
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