Philadelphia is often known as a city of underdogs. But one underdog is currently struggling to reboot.
Rev. Willie Singletary, 36, has been planning his return for months, hoping to bounce back from a federal conviction netted while serving as a Traffic Court judge to run as a U.S. representative for the 3rd District, representing Philadelphia in Congress. But his application to get on the ballot for the May Democratic primary was rejected due to missing the deadline on March 21.
"I got there in good faith. It was beyond my control," said Singletary, who claimed he got to Harrisburg at 5:09 p.m. due to the heavy snowfall from winter storm Toby and bad traffic on the turnpike. "A representative of my camp was in the Keystone building to receive nominating petitions. She gave notice she was waiting for me there. As long as she was in line, it shouldn't have been an issue. When you have a proxy, that's what a proxy is there for. It's been done before."
But even though, after leaving Philly at 2:30 p.m., Singletary said he found parking and got inside the building by 5 p.m. on the nose, it took precious minutes to get to the office for submitting election paperwork, and they locked their doors in his face, he said.
"Mr. Singletary's associate was waiting in the filing room prior to 5 p.m., and the staff explained to her that the entire nominating petition must be received no later than 5 p.m.," said a Department of State spokeswoman, who said the strict deadline was set forth in the Pennsylvania election code. "Mr. Singletary was understandably upset when he arrived, but our elections staff explained to him that we do not have administrative discretion to make exceptions to a statutory deadline."
On Thursday, Singletary filed his mandamus petition to hopefully get his situation reviewed. He said the voters deserve a chance to have him on the ballot.
"I've knocked on 2,600 doors, been to 80 community meetings. I've gone to the places where people never go, the bars, the delis, where regular people are. I can represent them and their issues," Singletary said. "People always think, 'You got a past.' So what? I made a mistake, but I'm not going to live in my past, live in my life from six, seven years ago, forever. There's another side of Willie Singletary."
Singletary was hoping to take on sitting Rep. Dwight Evans and Democratic contender Kevin Johnson, who will be competing in the May 15 primary for to be the Democratic nominee for representative of the newly re-drawn 3rd Congressional District.
Singletary previously served about 20 months in federal prison for lying to the FBI during an investigation of a ticket-fixing scandal in Philadelphia Traffic Court. He had previously resigned from the court in 2012 after being accused of misconduct by a female employee.
In the realm of politics, Singletary said he would be a passionate fighter for more education funding, reducing the prison population by reforming the criminal justice system and expanding access to healthcare.
"I know everybody don't like me and some people think I'm crazy, but then some people go, 'Y'know what, he's got a point,'" Singletary said. "If you ask anybody in America, 'Who's had some problems and some issues?' many people have, many people have made a mistake. … We have this American dream, that people always talk about, that you will be given a shot to regroup, rebuild and rise."