Patty-Pat Kozlowski is “the only candidate against safe injection sites” in the 177th District Pa. House race.
In a GOP-funded election mailer sent out last month, Pa. House candidate Patty-Pat Kozlowski claimed she was the sole candidate in her hotly contested race to oppose safe injection facilities.
Alternately called overdose prevention sites, these have been a hot-button issue in the the 177th District. A gerrymandered wedge that zigzags from lower Northeast Philadelphia down to Fishtown, the district brushes up against one the east coast’s largest illegal drug markets where residents contend with daily complaints of public narcotics use, discarded needles and an entrenched homeless population.
Residents in the 177th have been critical of Mayor Jim Kenney’s proposal to open up one of the nation’s first safe injection sites — medically supervised spaces where people can use drugs and also access detox and other treatment options. Dozens of peer-reviewed studies show clear benefits to safe injection sites, including fewer overdose fatalities and higher likelihood for drug users to seek medical treatment. But the proposal remains anathema to many in the U.S., including residents of Philadelphia’s River Wards.
Kozlowski has been pitching herself to voters as the best candidate to handle the attendant miseries of the drug crisis — and a staunch opponent of safe injection sites.
But is it true that her opponent in the race does not oppose them? We decided to fact-check the claim.
In September, Kozlowski sent out several mailers to constituents assuring them that she is the “only” candidate against the controversial facilities. “Patty-Pat Kozlowski is the only candidate who will fight against allowing illegal drugs to flow into our community,” pronounced one such mailer, which was paid for by the Republican Party of Pennsylvania.
Another read: “Joe Hohenstein won’t fight injection sites that allow illegal drug use.” On the other side was a bullet point: “[Kozlowski is] the only candidate against safe injection sites,” with only emphasized.
Hohenstein, an immigration lawyer, called the claims patently untrue. His campaign pointed to his opioid policy platform, available on his website: “Joe does not support establishing safe injection sites, but rather believes we need to put energy into common sense actions with proven track records of making the entire community safer.”
Contending with the highest overdose death rate of any major city in the country, Philadelphia officials have vowed to allow a new nonprofit to fund and operate the city’s first safe injection site, amid threats of a federal crackdown.
A review of the public statements issued on the topic by each campaign shows Hohenstein has not been as openly hostile to the issue as Kozlowski. In April, Kozlowski cited the opioid crisis and the city’s safe injection site proposal as her primary motivation for jumping into the 177th District race. She recently penned a sardonic op-ed for the Northeast Times railing against former Gov. Ed Rendell for backing the controversial project.
Meanwhile, the earliest published comments on safe injection sites on his Hohenstein’s social media channels appeared just weeks ago, in a video posted on Oct. 11.
However, according to campaign manager Zack Arnold, Hohenstein’s policy paper citing his opposition to safe injection sites was published months before Kozlowski made the claim. The PDF file on his website includes metadata that indicates it was last updated in early August.
Kozlowski herself acknowledged to PolitiFact PA over the phone that she knew Hohenstein’s website stated his position clearly at the time her mailer made the claim.
Reached for clarification, she argued that Hohenstein did not vocalize his opposition until long after she did — and claimed that he was initially supportive of the idea. The Republican Party of Pennsylvania could not be reached for comment.
“I’m glad he finally came out and picked a side, but in the beginning he was for them,” Kozlowski said. “I’ve always been against them.”
While Hohenstein was not vocal about the issue until much later, PolitiFact PA did not find any instance where Hohenstein indicated support for safe injection facilities. Neighborhood activist Dan Martino, one of Hohenstein’s three Democratic opponents in the primary and a vocal advocate for overdose prevention, added he had no recollection of Hohenstein speaking about the topic at all.
“Throughout the primary and during the debates, I was always the only one who was talking in favor of safe injection sites,” Martino said.
PolitiFact PA could not find any instance of Hohenstein professing his support of safe injection sites. His campaign declared its position against the sites sometime between May and August. While he has not been as vocal as Kozlowski, his position was stated on his campaign website before Kozlowski’s mailer made claims to the contrary. Kozlowski also acknowledged she was aware of Hohenstein’s professed stance before publicizing that she was the “only” candidate.
We rule this claim False.