By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia Democrats spent part of their President’s Day mapping strategy for the upcoming May primaries, in what is shaping up as an intra-district battle for one City Council seat.

Today, at the Democratic Party Caucus, held in the party’s Spring Garden Street headquarters, the thirteen ward leaders in Maria Quinones-Sanchez’s 7th District voted 12-0, with one abstention, to endorse challenger Manny Morales — a block captain, a committeeperson, and former state labor investigator — over the two-term incumbent.

“My vision is that as a public servant, it’s all about serving the people first, before myself,” Morales said today.

 

(Manny Morales is surrounded by family members and supporters at Democratic Party headquarters.  Photo by Steve Tawa)

(Manny Morales is surrounded by family members and supporters at Democratic Party headquarters. Photo by Steve Tawa)

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Quinones-Sanchez, first elected in 2007, has twice won her seat as a councilwoman without the Democratic machine behind her. And despite being snubbed today by her party, she was resolute.

“I will mount a grass-roots professional campaign and appeal to voters directly, as they will ultimately decide who represents them,” Quinones-Sanchez told KYW Newsradio.

Morales, who was a legislative assistant to the vice president of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico, moved to the mainland US in 2006, and has lived in the 7th District since then. He most recently was an investigator for the Pennsylvania Department of Labor.

State representative Angel Cruz, a ward leader in the 7th District, chides Quinones-Sanchez for trying to expand her political reach, such as when last year she supported a slate of state House and Senate candidates who ran against Cruz and other endorsed Democrats.

“You have to be loyal to the party that you want support from. You can’t go out and endorse Republicans and others that the party does not support,” Cruz said today.

Quinones-Sanchez says since she never received an endorsement from her fellow Democrats, she “ran people” that she “could potentially work with.” In her words, “I will continue to support progressive candidates like me.”

With the party supporting Morales, state representative Leslie Acosta acknowledges that this creates a big division in the Latino community. But she says Morales looks for ways to bring people together.

“The Democratic Party is looking for candidates that can bring unity and be a part of the process, not be independent from the process,” she said.

Quinones-Sanchez represents the core of the city’s Latino community in a district that stretches from North Philadelphia and Kensington to Hunting Park and the lower Northeast.