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GOP-Endorsed Candidate For Philadelphia Mayor Says ‘Mental Illness’ Has Kept Her From Working For Eight Years

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Andrew Kerr Investigative Reporter
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  • Philadelphia Republican Party’s endorsed candidate for mayor, Daphne Goggins, suffers from anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder, she told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
  • Goggins, the first black female endorsed by the Philadelphia GOP, hasn’t held a paid job since 2010 and supports herself financially through federal disability benefits.
  • Goggins said she will give up her disability benefits if she wins her election. She said she’s fit to serve as mayor of the sixth-largest city in the United States because her cabinet would do most of the work for her.
  • Goggins said her mental illnesses shouldn’t prevent her from serving as mayor but also said late Arizona Sen. John McCain should have stepped down from the Senate because of his “brain problems.”

The Philadelphia Republican Party’s endorsed candidate for mayor, Daphne Goggins, hasn’t worked a paid job in eight years due to anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder, she revealed during a phone interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Goggins became the first black woman to receive the endorsement of the Philadelphia GOP on Feb. 13, but her endorsement swiftly came under fire after one of her primary opponents, Billy Ciancaglini, said she hasn’t held a paid job since 2010 and has been relying on federal disability benefits to support herself.

The revelation prompted party chairman Michael Meehan to organize a meeting Monday with ward leaders to reconsider the party’s endorsement of Goggins. The disability benefits she receives are meant for people unable “to perform any job in the national economy,” Meehan said. “I think the mayor’s job is one in the national economy and is a sticking a point.”

The ward leaders voted 29 to 18 on Monday against reconsidering Goggins’ endorsement, solidifying the Philadelphia GOP’s support of her in the lead up to the May 21 primary.

Goggins, who is a ward leader herself, kept her colleagues in the dark prior to Monday’s vote regarding the conditions that qualify her for disability benefits. Goggins said in January she suffers from fibromyalgia, a musculoskeletal pain disorder, but told reporters Monday that isn’t why she collects disability.

‘I truly believe that God disabled me’

Goggins, a 56-year-old single mother of three, revealed to TheDCNF on Tuesday that mental illness is what’s kept her away from the paid workforce since 2010.

“The reason I was actually disabled is mental illness,” Goggins said in a phone interview. “I take a chance in saying this because I may lose some voters.”

“Bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety is what I treat for,” she said.

Goggins said her mental illnesses materialized after she stopped snorting cocaine in 2005.

“When I first got clean from snorting cocaine and being a functioning addict, I realized that my job was to stay clean,” she said. “As the years went on I saw the issues that I had. Then I got the breast cancer. Then the diabetes came along. I actually fell into a coma last year because I took the wrong medication.”

“I went from making $60,000 a year to living off of $600 a month and food stamps,” she said.

Following the publication of this story, Goggins clarified to TheDCNF that the above figure represented her income in 2005. She said she stopped collecting food stamps in 2010 after she began to collect disability but declined to share her current monthly income, which she said is higher than $600 a month.

Goggins said she worked in social services and drug prevention before she began receiving disability benefits in 2010. Goggins says she manages her mental conditions through medication, volunteering in her community and serving as a ward leader for the Philadelphia GOP.

“What I decided to do is what I do best,” Goggins said. “I chose to volunteer in the community because I truly believe that God disabled me to do that.”

“I’m the secretary of my block. I’m the secretary of a baseball league that my son doesn’t even play in anymore. He goes to college now. I still help them with writing grants,” she said. “I volunteer at over 17 different Philadelphia schools. I’m a volunteer with my 12-step program.”

“God gave me a second chance at life not once, not twice but three times, and he blessed me with enough income to be able to help my community,” she said.

‘That is not how disability works’

Goggins says she’s ready to re-enter the workforce after her nearly decade-long hiatus. Her first stop is the mayorship of the sixth-largest city in the U.S.

“I’ve managed my life enough to be able to be a mayor because I’ve worked on it and I have been endorsed by my party,” she said.

Goggins said she will only give up her disability benefits if she becomes Philadelphia’s next mayor.

Goggins’ primary opponent, Democrat-turned-Republican Ciancaglini, lambasted her justification to continue collecting disability while claiming she is fit to be the mayor.

“That is not how disability works,” Ciancaglini told TheDCNF. “You don’t say, ‘I’ll get healed if I get a better job.'”

Goggins said she is “physically, emotionally and mentally capable of handling the duties of Mayor of Philadelphia,” in a statement Saturday in response to the revelation that she’s been on disability benefits for nearly a decade.

“If you can physically, mentally and emotionally do that, you can be a secretary, a teacher, a data-entry analyst,” Ciancaglini said. “Daphne wants to keep collecting disability by saying, ‘I’m unable to work,’ but yet, ‘I’m going to run for mayor, and if I win then I’ll say I’m healed.'”

When asked why she says she is capable of serving as mayor but won’t make efforts to reenter the paid workforce, Goggins responded: “So do they want me to give up my income now and not pay my bills?”

“I think I’ve gotten to the point where I can reenter the workforce,” she said. “Now, I’m not absolutely sure of that, and that’s the problem. You are never sure. Things happen. You’re never sure, but I’m taking this chance because I believe God wants me to.”

Goggins said she’s confident she has what it takes to serve as mayor of the sixth-largest city in the country because her cabinet would do most of the work for her.

“The mayor is the executive representative of the city of Philadelphia,” she said. “The people that mostly do the work are his cabinet, and I have the ability to appoint a cabinet. I do have executive experience in that area.”

Goggins served as the executive director of the West Poplar Neighborhood Advisory Committee from 2002 to 2004, according to her resume.

“I have the ability to write speeches and the ability to articulate my message,” she said. “And I do have the ability to go out there. Can I go up and down the steps — no I cannot. But you reach people in all kinds of ways. Now we are blessed with social media. There are all kinds of ways to get your message out.”

Goggins could become one of the highest compensated mayors in the country

The last Republican elected mayor of Philadelphia left office in 1952. With seven registered Democrats in the city to every Republican, any Republican hoping to win the mayorship in the city faces an uphill battle.

Goggins was blunt about her chances to become the city’s next mayor.

“I’m going to be honest with you. Everything that I’ve done in my life I’ve failed at,” she said. “So chances of winning are just as good as chances of losing for me. So I’m going to say it’s 50-50.”

Following the publication of this story, Goggins contacted this reporter and claimed she didn’t say, “Everything that I’ve done in my life I’ve failed at.” This reporter recorded his entire phone conversation with Goggins. After he had her listen to her statement multiple times, she accepted TheDCNF accurately reported her statement.

“I accept that it sounded like what you said I said,” Goggins said, adding that she meant to say “nothing,” not “everything.”

“I misspoke on that because that’s disgraceful,” Goggins said. “Who would say that about themselves?”

If her bid is successful, Goggins would become one of the highest compensated mayors in the country. The current mayor of Philadelphia’s budgeted annual salary is $218,000.

If she loses, Goggins said her next step would be to “continue to try to get better and try to get off disability.”

“I am a homeowner and there are some things I would like to do and being on disability limits you from earning the type of money that would help you remodel your home and stuff,” she said. “It’s never been my dream to limit myself in income.”

“But then I can always meet a husband and he could take care of me because I’ve been so busy working all my life that I’ve never had that opportunity to get married,” she continued. “I don’t know what God has in store for me but I know this — he’s going to take care of me and make sure that I have what I need because that’s what he’s done for me since the day I gave drugs up.”

Goggins said John McCain shouldn’t have served in Congress after being diagnosed with ‘brain problems’

Goggins is adamant that her disabilities do not prevent her from seeking elected office.

“My disability will not preclude me from being a great mayor,” she said. “I look at ability and not the disability.”

Goggins cited former Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, who suffered from physical disabilities due to injuries he sustained as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, and 85-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who just recovered from an operation in December to remove two cancerous nodules from her lungs. (RELATED: Justice Ginsburg Has No Remaining Cancer, Supreme Court Announces)

“These people are people who I’ve watched over the years go to work and they inspire me to continue to try to get better and continue to try to do this,” she said. “I just believe that God chose me to run this campaign this year at this time in Philadelphia.”

But Goggins said McCain should have stepped away from the Senate because of his “brain problems,” after the late senator was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2017.

“You’ve got brain problems but you’re running around making policy?” Goggins told Politico in September 2017. “No, sit down somewhere.”

Goggins told TheDCNF that she was “wrong for saying that” and claimed she regretted making the statement, but then she aggressively criticized both McCain for working through his illness and Ginsburg for continuing to work at an old age.

“When you treating for brain cancer you really ain’t thinking,” she said of McCain, who was an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump. “My thing was this man was making decisions  — the same thing that I’m going through right now is what he was doing. He was being used by the party to go against our president and I felt like he should have just stepped to the side.”

“Most people would have stopped working in that situation,” she said. “But he stayed in that position to hurt the president for political purposes.”

“I’m a cancer survivor. I know what it takes to go through that treatment,” she said. “He’s way over what I was when I was in my treatment … I didn’t think he should have been making decisions and working.”

“Do I think he should have stepped down? Yeah … I believe they used John McCain and played politics with him,” she continued. “While he was treating for cancer he should not have been functioning and working. He could have took a leave of absence and stayed off work and treated his cancer. That’s what most normal people do.”

“How many people actually treat with cancer and be working at the same time?” she asked. “You got to think about that. Why would they do that? There’s a reason why people do that because it’s an agenda.”

“Why are they still hanging around?” she asked. “We should have term limits, that’s what I think. They should have term limits in Congress. People shouldn’t be there when they’re 80 years old. They don’t have lives?”

“I’m 56,” she said. “One of the reasons why I wasn’t all that anxious about returning to work was because of my age. Look at Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Is she really performing her job? Apparently not, but I don’t hear anybody saying anything about it.”

“Why does Ruth Bader Ginsburg right now have to be working?” Goggins said. “I’ve got to give her credit. If she’s got a team that’s doing work for her, God bless her. She’s sure holding onto that nomination that President Trump ain’t going to get.”

“But I don’t understand what none of that has to do with me,” said Goggins, who says her own mental illnesses shouldn’t prevent her from serving as mayor.

“Why should I be ashamed of having mental illness?” she asked. “I think that the voters of Philadelphia should get to decide.”

“And I think they just might choose me,” she added.

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