There is probably only one person who believes that Republican candidate for Congress James Jones can win in the heavily Democratic Second Congressional District next week.
That person is James Jones.
“I equate myself with David and Goliath," said Jones, who is running against long-time Philly legislator Dwight Evans. “I’m competing with a Goliath: not my opponent, but the Democrat system."
Jones is running for the seat formerly held for decades by disgraced Democratic Congressman Chaka Fattah. A Republican hasn't represented the district, which encompasses a huge chunk of Philadelphia's poorest neighborhoods, since the 1940s.
Jones said he knows it won't be a "cake walk," but said he doesn’t care about the odds. After all, he grew up the son of sharecroppers down south in a three-room shack with six siblings, no running water and an outhouse.
“When we were down to our last pot of beans, my parents would share with us, ‘This pot may be empty today, but tomorrow it will be filled again. Maybe with chicken bones, or pigs' feet, but something, something that will allow us to live one more day,'" Jones recounted. "The people in my district need to believe that they too can have a chance if they survive one more day."
Jones is a military veteran who ran for the 8th Congressional District in 2010 and runs his own international human resources firm, QSI Consulting. He said he's gotten more than 200,000 people hired through his work for various companies around the world, and he wants to bring that track record to poverty-stricken North Philly.
“If we want to attract business and investment into the 2nd Congressional district, let’s present an atmosphere that’s much better than high rates of crime, Killadelphia, 300 murders a year,” he said.
Jones' security plan calls for creating 5,000 jobs in neighborhood security for low-income or formerly incarcerated constituents. Block by block, he asserted, quality of life improvements would lead to more business investment and jobs.
“My opponent has not done anything to address these issues," Jones said of Evans, whom he criticized for spending three decades in public office. "He's held block parties and jazz concerts. That’s fine for entertainment, but it's not going to do anything."
Evans' campaign disagreed with that assessment.
"Rep. Dwight Evans has spent his 36 years fighting for economic opportunities for those in Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania," spokesman Michael Dineen responded, noting the benefits of Evans' Fresh Food Financing Initiative and the Pennsylvania Convention Center. "These are tangible, real life examples of successes that Rep. Evans can point to instead of the hollow and empty rhetoric from his opponent."
Jones described himself as a social conservative, but he does support Donald Trump for president. He said Trump’s lewd and offensive public comments are piddling offenses compared to Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and her handling of the Benghazi incident.
But at other points he sounds a little like a Democrat, talking about leveraging a government role into bringing jobs and investments into his community. He just doesn't believe anyone involved in Philadelphia's well-known Democratic party machine can really accomplish that.
"The city of Philadelphia reminds me of ancient Rome. There's political corruption, pay to play, haves and have-nots," he said. "We have to remove this idea of 'only Democrats can save us.' For 65 years, they haven't saved us.
"If you want a reason to elect James Jones, it's that I have a history of creating a positive vision and turning it into reality," he continued. "There is hope."