Pa. State Rep. Kevin Boyle speaking in York, September 2020

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Set the “days since a Philly politician attacked another Philly politician on social media” counter back to zero.

In an unusually hostile Twitter post, state Rep. Kevin J. Boyle raged against City Councilmember Isaiah Thomas, referencing the city’s spiking homicide rate and a police reform bill Thomas introduced this summer.

“Isaiah Thomas is probably the worst member of Philadelphia City Council,” Boyle tweeted at 9:42 p.m. on Sunday night. “In a city with a murder rate so out of control he’s literally championing efforts to further restrict policing. Furthermore he’s playing the race card. Total fraud!”

Screenshot of state Rep. Kevin Boyle’s now-deleted tweet attacking City Councilmember Isaiah Thomas.

The tweet, which has since been deleted but was captured in screenshots, linked to a Thomas tweet from four days prior, promoting a USA Today editorial endorsing a bill he sponsored. The measure seeks to bar police from stopping motorists for trivial vehicle code violations, like a broken taillight, outdated registration, or items hanging from a rearview mirror.

Black motorists are stopped at disproportionately higher rates than white drivers — three times more often, according to numerous analyses of police data — and many of these stops are justified using Pennsylvania’s wide-ranging and detailed motor vehicle regulations.

Thomas, who is Black, said he has personally been subject to what he views as unwarranted police stops. According to the USA Today editorial, the longtime community leader has been pulled over more than 20 times in his native Philadelphia, often for minor infractions, including once for “pausing too long at a stop sign.” He said he was sometimes handcuffed as a result.

“We should end the traffic stops that promote discrimination and keep the ones that keep us safe,” Thomas wrote in the July 28 tweet, alongside the editorial.

Reached for comment, Thomas said he was proud to share the USA today endorsement and was taken aback by Boyle’s public response several days later.

“While the tone of Rep. Kevin Boyle’s tweet is disappointing, this is not the first time we’ve disagreed in over a decade of friendship and support,” Thomas said in a statement. “We welcome conversations, however uncomfortable at times, about our agenda to improve police-community relations.”

Boyle did not respond to several requests for comment. Phone calls to his three legislative office locations went immediately to voicemail.

Boyle, who is white and whose district includes parts of Northeast Philadelphia and Montgomery County, has been in office since 2011. Thomas took office in 2020 after winning one of Council’s seven at-large seats in a heavily crowded Democratic primary. The two Democrats have endorsed each other in past elections. Boyle and his brother, U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, backed Thomas when he ran for council in 2015 and 2019.

Thomas is hosting a town hall to discuss the motorist legislation, open to the public — including Boyle, his office noted.

Max Marin (he/him) was Billy Penn's investigative reporter from 2018 to 2021. A graduate of Temple University, he has produced award-winning journalism on local politics, criminal justice, immigration...