Politics

This 26-Year-Old Latino Biologist Wants to Become Philly’s First Gay Councilman

Adrian Rivera-Reyes, a democratic socialist, has officially announced his City Council at-large bid as “a nontraditional candidate.”


Adrian Rivera Reyes

Adrian Rivera-Reyes, a Penn grad and labor organizer, announced on Wednesday his bid for an at-large seat on Philadelphia City Council.Rivera-Reyes says he is running on a progressive platform that centers the working class, people of color, LGBTQ community members, and millennials. He’s already aware that he’s a “nontraditional” candidate (Latino, gay, and millennial) in what is shaping up to be a crowded race — but has hope that his campaign will bring “moral clarity” to the city and secure a victory.

Tell us a little about your background.
I was born in Puerto Rico to a struggling working-class family. Despite the struggles we faced, I was fortunate to receive an education that allowed me to come to Philadelphia to continue dedicating my life to developing cancer treatments at the University of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia is my home. Here I’ve grown as person, came out of the closet, made many friends, and found community. In Philly, I’ve had the opportunity to work on improving healthcare, to organize workers alongside fellow graduate students fighting for proper work protections, and to ensure everyone has a welcoming home in our city through LGBTQ+ advocacy work and diversity and inclusion initiatives. I am also a dues-paying member of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), and I’m running a grassroots campaign as a democratic socialist in the Democratic primary for an at-large seat on Philadelphia City Council. I am also currently working as postdoctoral fellow at Penn doing cancer research while running for office.

You’re currently a cancer biologist. What made you decide to switch from science to politics?
Issues such as housing instability, job insecurity, an underfunded education system and toxic schools, and the opioid epidemic echo those of my own upbringing. Our local government is not investing in and providing the opportunities necessary for working-class Philadelphians to succeed. I decided to switch to politics because people like me don’t have proper representation in City Council, and I will bring a public health and healthcare mentality when finding solutions for our problems. Our local government is overwhelmingly made up of lawyers, businesspeople, and career politicians. It is no wonder that the policies they enact do not benefit the many. I will be a voice for the voiceless, for the working class, for people of color, for millennials and the elderly, for the LGBTQ community, and for immigrants, Hispanics, and Latinos.

You’re entering what has become a crowded City Council at-large race. What do you think makes you stand out from the rest?
It’s not very hard to determine that I’m a nontraditional candidate running for office. I am a cancer biologist running as democratic socialist because I recognize that our current systems favor the few, at the cost of the many. My platform reflects the interest of the many as well as my background in healthcare. My campaign will be radical, bold, and about moral clarity. To paraphrase Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, throughout our history radicals have been the ones to change the country.

If elected, you would be the first openly gay and only millennial serving on City Council. What do you think such a victory would mean for both communities?
Currently neither the LGBTQ+ community nor millennials have representation on City Council, which is evident from the policy outcomes from our current government. These communities, which I am part of, deserve a seat at the table, as we represent the future. I will act as bullhorn to amplify our voices and be the warrior we want and deserve.

You have a background in labor organizing. What are three major policy issues your campaign plans to address, and why?
I firmly believe that everyone has the right to a home, the right to a good education, and the right to well-paying jobs. Above all, the wealthy in this city need to pay their fair share, so that we fund our schools and education properly, create affordable housing that meets the demands of Philadelphia, increase funding for community health centers and expand services, solve the opioid epidemic affecting our city and families, and reform the criminal justice system that unfairly targets black and brown communities. My vision is that of a just and equitable Philadelphia where we all thrive!

What is one major misconception do you anticipate your campaign is going to have to dispel for voters?
My campaign will challenge the misconception that preserving the status quo benefits Philadelphians. There is no better time for moral clarity. This is a grassroots campaign driven by volunteers and small donations. We are getting money out of politics and showing everyone that the will of the people will always beat big money!