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Prog_Penn_Logo Nikil Saval (Data for Progress)

With all of the attention, and money, flowing into the Presidential primary, it can be easy to lose track of the many down ballot races progressives are fighting in. The outcome of these races have potentially massive consequences for the types of legislation that is able to get passed and the future of the Democratic party.

The Primaries for Progress team has chosen a slate of strong down ballot progressives in Pennsylvania who represent the future of the party. They are Green New Deal champions, Medicare for All advocates and criminal justice reformers. The path to a progressive future lies through people like them.

Nikil Saval (SD-01)

Nikil Saval moved to Philadelphia in 2011. He was a graduate student and volunteer union organizer at the time, and in the following years, he began a second career writing about urban planning and the history and future of work, which quickly led to authoring a book and co-editing the magazine n+1. He joined the Bernie Sanders 2016 campaign, and after that primary, Saval helped transform the organizational efforts into the new grassroots group Reclaim Philadelphia. Reclaim scored two victories in 2018, when Saval successfully primaried longtime incumbent Ward 2 leader Ed Nesmith, and when Elizabeth Fiedler won the nomination for the 184th House District, beating machine-backed Jonathan Rowan, a staffer of state Senator Larry Farnese. This year, Saval is challenging Farnese for his seat.

Farnese currently holds SD-01, a South Philly senate district that has for decades been the epicenter of machine activity in the city, and, consequently, machine corruption. Farnese won the seat in 2008, while the previous senator was being convicted on a whopping 137 counts of fraud. Farnese has had his own close calls with the law. Only a couple years ago, he was acquitted on bribery charges because the prosecution couldn’t prove a $6,000 gift to a local politician influenced that politician’s vote. Farnese is part of a system that holds power for power’s sake. But a lot has changed in the last decade, and Saval is running on a bold platform of a housing guarantee, a Green New Deal, and universal healthcare and childcare, which may be just what convinces SD-01 to finally leave the machine.

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