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Former Judge Nelson Diaz Wants To Be Philadelphia’s First Latino Mayor

Could the nation’s fifth-largest city soon have its first Latino mayor?

Nelson A. Diaz, a former common pleas court judge of Puerto Rican descent, will vie for the distinction. The 67-year-old Democrat announced his candidacy for his party’s nomination Thursday, emphasizing his Puerto Rican roots and his up-by-the-bootstraps success story.

Diaz announced his candidacy at Tierra Colombiana, a popular restaurant with the city’s Latino politicians. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports Diaz vowed to make education reform his top priority. “I will die fixing the school system," Diaz said.

Another Latino and fellow Democrat, former City Solicitor Ken Trujillo, is also seeking the party’s nomination for mayor, a fact Diaz downplayed almost a month ago on Twitter:

Latinos make up about 13 percent of the city’s 1.55 million population, according to most recent census estimates. A city on the rebound, Philadelphia reversed population declines beginning in the 1970s, thanks in some degree to a surge in immigrant populations.

Diaz has been a trailblazer in many of his political and career pursuits. He was the first of Puerto Rican descent to be admitted to the Pennsylvania bar, and the first Latino elected to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, where he was a judge for 12 years. Born in Harlem, New York to a single mother, Diaz grew up in public housing before becoming the first in his family to attend college.

Diaz previously served in the Clinton administration as counsel to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He is a partner in a Philadelphia law firm.

--Juan Castillo