Saval joins protesters in the wake of his primary election win

Saval called the Philadelphia Police Department’s handling of some protests over the past week “absolutely deplorable.”

A masked Nikil Saval marches with protesters in Center City this weekend. | Photo by Shannon Garrison.

With the primary campaign now over and no general election opponent to campaign against, Nikil Saval, who defeated incumbent state Sen. Larry Farnese on Tuesday, joined protesters marching for racial justice over the weekend in Center City

“I ran with movement work in my background in fighting for criminal justice reform and fighting for so much that we’re fighting for now,” he said. “Many of our volunteers are quite involved in the protest movement.”

Even though he has yet to declare victory in the election, the Associated Press, New York Times and Philadelphia Inquirer have all called the race in his favor.

Saval’s campaign manager, Amanda McIllmurray, said the campaign hasn’t yet declared victory because there are remaining mail-in and absentee ballots left to be counted.

In a phone call on Friday, Saval called the removal of the Frank Rizzo statue, which was located in front of the Municipal Services Building until early Wednesday morning, “long overdue.”

“I think Frank Rizzo, both as a mayor and as a police commissioner, brought an unabashedly racist ethos into office and into governing,” he said. “Many people, myself included, saw this embodied in the public monuments to him.”

Furthermore, Saval called the Philadelphia Police Department’s handling of some protests over the past week “absolutely deplorable.”

“I think [with regard to] the way the police have responded to mass protests, it seems to have been tacit acceptance, if not encouragement, of vigilante gangs in places like Fishtown,” he said. “The way protesters were tear gassed on the Vine Street Expressway and trapped – that would be considered a crime in many countries.”

He said the city needs “a completely different model” for policing.

“It’s not immediately obvious,” what that different model would look like, Saval said, “but this is not working.”

At the time of writing, Saval is up on Farnese 62 percent to 38 percent with 100 percent reporting of in-person votes, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State. However, there are still mail-in and absentee ballots left to be counted.

“We feel proud of our campaign’s work,” Saval told the Star. “I feel immensely proud of our staff and volunteers and partners that put this together.”

Saval is yet another candidate on a growing list of nominees endorsed by Reclaim Philadelphia, a left-wing political organization he co-founded, which was born from the ashes of grassroots organizers in Philadelphia who supported Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign. The group has also aided in the first-time elections of District Attorney Larry Krasner, Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler (D-184th dist.), Rep. Joe Hohenstein (D-177th dist.) and City Councilmembers Kendra Brooks and Isaiah Thomas. Rick Krajewski, who’s currently ahead in the 188th Legislative District race, could potentially be added to that list. The race has yet to be called, but he currently holds an 8 percentage point lead.

“We believe it is a moral gesture to speak to voters in terms of what their concerns are and [we] reach out to every voter and engage them on a level of what their states are in their political futures,” Saval said of Reclaim. “That is effective and we’re able to move lots of people that way. I think it resonates.”

The other big race in the River Wards, the Democratic primary for the 175th Legislative District, has yet to be called. As the results currently stand, incumbent Mary Isaacson is ahead with 36 percent of the vote, but challengers Vanessa McGrath and Jeff Dempsey are trailing close behind with 27 and 23 percent of the vote, respectively. Andre Del Valle is in a distant fourth place with 14 percent of the vote. There was no Republican primary for this race, either.