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Lehigh Valley Election News

Easton councilwoman announces run for state House seat

Taiba Sultana.jpg
Taiba Sultana for Pa.
Easton City Councilwoman Taiba Sultana

EASTON, Pa. — City Councilwoman Taiba Sultana announced Tuesday she will run for the 136th District state House of Representatives seat, hoping to best longtime incumbent Robert Freeman in the Democratic primary.

In a release, representatives for Sultana’s campaign wrote that she is running “because she is committed to building a brighter future where all working people can thrive,” with a focus on LGBT rights, gun safety reforms, abortion access and criminal justice reform.

Her campaign touts her “perseverance as a mother, an immigrant, a first-generation college graduate, and a current Councilwoman” as signs she is “reflective of the community.”

Freeman announced Monday he will seek re-election to a 20th term.

The 136th District covers Easton, Freemansburg, Glendon, Hellertown, West Easton, Wilson and parts of Lower Saucon, Palmer and Williams townships.

In addition to her time on city council, Sultana has worked as a community organizer with the New Pennsylvania Project.

Sultana has been no stranger to scrutiny over the past year, including when she was charged in July with assault for alleged violence against her son and when she introduced a city council motion in Octobercalling for “an immediate cease-fire between Israel and occupied Palestine.”

Pennsylvania will hold its primary election on April 23; to participate, residents must register to vote by April 8.

Only registered Democrats will be allowed to vote in that party’s primary race.

The launch party

The basement room at 3rd and Ferry Fish Market began filling up just after 6:30 p.m., with Sultana enthusiastically greeting each guest with a smile and a warm welcome.

A diverse collection of citizens spanning ages and ethnic backgrounds chat politely and enjoy appetizers, discussing politics and Sultana’s upcoming campaign. What’s the strategy? Who is involved? How does one face off against an incumbent with 25 years of experience in office?

Sultana’s campaign manager Agostino D’Ancona takes to the front of the room, introducing himself and the rest of the aspiring representative’s team. Skewing young, they all hold an enthusiastic position of bringing fresh voices into the political forum, and invoking change.

Stepping to the front of the crowd, Sultana thanks her team and the attendees before speaking how proud she is to run “as a progressive, advocating for a fair and just society that prioritizes the needs of the working class people.”

She touches on a past of being homeless, raising her children in public housing, and how it colored her position to push for affordable housing, workers’ rights, and fair wages.

She mentions how her children all attend public school, and how everyone is entitled to a good education, no matter what their ZIP code or socioeconomic status.

She speaks about being the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, and how healthcare – particularly a single-payer system which covers all Pennsylvanians – is the goal.

“We will work together to make a government that works for us, a government that is by the people and for the people. So thank you again for your support. Thank you. Let us build a Pennsylvania which is fair, just and equitable,” Sultana said.

The rhetoric, while familiar, is popular with the crowd, eliciting cheers and applause. The goals are certainly lofty, but Sultana appears confident, even if it will take a sizable grass-roots effort to unseat Freeman.

And there are other challenges – Sultana has only so much experience in council, going up against Freeman’s expansive stories of success, and her time in Easton has seen a few instances of controversy, often butting heads with Mayor Sal Panto Jr.

Both Sultana and D’Ancona are realistic about the workload that sits before them – it’s going to take an incredible amount of time, energy, and feet on the pavement to stand a chance. With a shoestring budget and an uphill battle, it’s going to be tough, but the energy in the room is palpable, and it appears at least a portion of District 136 is interested in seeing a new face as a representative.