For most veterans with party backing, reelection is a cakewalk. But Cruz, 46, defeated Ramos by just 139 votes in 2010 and figures to have another tight race this year, thanks in part to an ongoing feud with Carlos Matos, a continuing political power in the city's Latino community despite a recent federal prison term for bribery.
Cruz said he has worked hard to support housing and business development and secure funding for nonprofit groups helping the community. Among recent efforts, he said he was working with City Councilman Bobby Henon on a pilot program to remove abandoned automobile tires now littering the 180th Legislative District, which includes parts of North Philadelphia, Fairhill, West Kensington, Feltonville, and Harrowgate.
Ramos, 53, a Feltonville resident, says he should be considered on his own merits - including three years' active service with the Marine Corps and 21 years with the Philadelphia police, two-thirds of it in the East Division, with similar boundaries to the 180th district.
Ramos said he started the teen court program at Kensington High School, setting up a student-led disciplinary process, and continued working with youths as a community relations officer. He cites his work cofounding Back to Basics, a movement calling on men "to assume their proper place in society, the male role model as the head of household, not the tail."
Johnson, 43, works at Philly House, a residential halfway house where he helps prisoners re-acclimate after years in prison, and he founded Dream Field Academy, a youth-mentoring program. A graduate of Cheyney University, Johnson holds a master's in European studies from La Salle and is working on a doctorate dealing with conflict resolution.
Both challengers criticized Cruz for allegedly failing to improve high crime and poverty rates in the district.
Josephs vs. Sims
There is no political fight more furious than two former allies battling each other.
Brian Sims, an attorney active in gay-rights issues, was campaign treasurer for State Rep. Babette Josephs two years ago.
On Tuesday, Sims challenges Josephs in the Democratic primary election for the seat she has held since 1985.
A sample of the campaign literature circulating in the 182d District's Center City and South Philly neighborhoods in the last week:
Josephs, noting that Sims says he is willing to work with Republicans in the state General Assembly, sent a mailer suggesting that he would support Gov. Corbett on conservative issues such as mandatory ultrasounds before abortions, photo ID requirements for voting, and "drastic cuts to public education."
Sims, who so far has out-raised Josephs in campaign cash by 3-1, responded with a mailer bringing up a vote Josephs cast against the mandatory registering of sex offenders, which she told the Daily News six years ago provides a "false sense of security" for parents. "If Babette won't fight to protect our children, how can we keep voting for her?" the mailer asks.
Josephs, 71, says her mailer was an attempt to "inject a little humor in the race" while asking if Sims would support those issues.
Sims, 33, says the sex-offender mailer cited her voting record.
Josephs is considered a reliable voice on progressive issues. She shrugs off suggestions that her liberal positions make her ineffective in a legislature controlled by conservatives. Her liberal stance is what her constituents want, she adds.
Sims says that is not enough.
"I'm much better at policy and legislation than I am at casting aspersions and calling people names," he said.
Josephs complains that Sims has a broad fund-raising base, with donations coming from Oregon and California donors who don't know her and her record.
Sims notes that two-thirds of Josephs' fund-raising comes in big checks from political action committees while a large chunk of his funding came in donations of $250 or less.
Josephs predicts she will narrow the gap in fund-raising by Election Day, explaining the slow start this way: "You have to convince people I'm in danger."
Roebuck vs. Muhammad
The battle in Harrisburg over school vouchers has placed State Rep. James Roebuck Jr. in political peril to a newcomer with well-heeled campaign contributors.
Roebuck, 67, who has represented West Philly's 188th District since 1985, says he is using his post as the ranking Democrat on the state House Education Committee to stymie legislation to use public tax dollars to pay for private-school tuition.
He is being challenged in Tuesday's primary election by Fatimah Muhammad, a 27-year-old who favors vouchers and tells a compelling story about being homeless as a child and how education improved her life.
A political action committee for Students First PA, a pro-voucher group, gave Muhammad $25,000 in February. It also gave $12,000 last month to a newly formed PAC, Public Education Excellence, which has been hammering Roebuck with mailers assailing his record.
Muhammad, who was endorsed this week by the Black Clergy of Philadelphia & Vicinity, said her childhood helped shape her thinking in public policy.
The Rev. Terrence Griffith, president of the Black Clergy, said he ignored Roebuck's request for support this year, in part due to the voucher issue. Griffith's group received $6,000 from Students First last month.
Roebuck has received $5,000 from the public school teachers' union in Philadelphia and $15,000 from the state public teachers' union. He will put that money to work soon with robo-calls and campaign literature from former Gov. Ed Rendell, citing their work together in Harrisburg on state education policy.
Roebuck accuses State Sen. Anthony Williams of West Philadelphia of targeting him.
Williams, who has close ties with Students First PA, and ran for governor in 2010 using a pro-voucher platform, denies it. Williams' former chief of staff is now executive director of Students First PA.
Contact Bob Warner at 215-854-5885 or email@example.com.
Contact Chris Brennan at 215-854-5973 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter @ChrisBrennanDN. Read his blog, www.PhillyClout.com.