by Brendan Sample
Ninth Ward voters helped power an unexpected victory for Mt. Airy resident’ Chris Rabb who secured the Democratic nomination to run for the state’s 200th District House seat in November.
Rabb collected 47 percent of the vote in the district, beating incumbent Tonyelle Cook-Artis by 7 points. His margin in the 9th Ward, however, was far greater, securing 79 percent of the vote to Cook-Artis’ 13. Of the 10,114 total votes he received, 4,022 were cast in the 9th Ward.
We spoke with Rabb this week following his unlikely win.
What has been your reaction to winning the primary so far?
I’m completely elated and just extremely grateful to everyone who voted.
What did you think your chances of winning were going into Tuesday?
When I saw the mailer that the PA House Democratic Committee sent out on Monday morning, which included a list of all the elected officials that endorsed her [Tonyelle Cook-Artis], I just thought, “What the heck am I doing?” It was in that moment that I truly realized the enormity of this venture and what I was up against. There was no clearer moment of what it looked like to go up against the establishment than seeing that mailer the day before the election.
Our goal was ultimately twofold: to win and, at the very least, to run with integrity, and thankfully we accomplished both.
Going back further, what made you initially want to run for this seat?
My initial motivation – the thing that tipped the scales for me in favor of running –was a conversation I had with my grandparents back when I was in college. I was decrying how there were so many politicians who, in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, I found disappointing. Their response was that if people of integrity don’t run, the void won’t be filled. It’s easy to complain, but if you’re not making yourself a part of the solution, you have no excuse.
Having raised my kids in Mt. Airy and gotten to know many wonderful people of character, I realized that none of them were running. I finally started to consider this past summer, “Why not me?” If nobody else does, maybe this is a moment where I need to step up and honor my grandparents, who were civil rights activists. That memory came back to me in a flash – this was that moment they were talking about. If there were a number of well-qualified people running in this election that had the same values as me and were strong advocates, then I wouldn’t have run.
I know it’s a sensitive topic, but I do want to bring up the you man who was tragically killed in front of you last Sunday. Obviously my deepest sympathies, along with the Local’s, go out to his family and you as well. How have you been holding up since then?
I’m simply devastated. What I saw is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. My priority has been comforting the family as one of the last people their son ever spoke to and affirming his humanity by acknowledging the reason why we spoke in the first place, which was his enthusiasm for the political process. He talked about how he would be working the polls during the election, and it was at that point when I wanted to try to bring this young man into the process.
How are you now preparing for the general election against Latryse McDowell in November?
My preparations for the general will involve continuing to introduce myself to as many as the residents of the district as possible. I know I’m not a household name, but my sincere objective is to listen to people in the district, particularly those who have felt marginalized in some way. I want to find a common cause so that my potential tenure will be as fruitful as possible for all those involved.