Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Otto Banks announces for Harrisburg mayor, stresses qualifications, inclusiveness

A screen shot of Otto Banks, from his announcement video on Tuesday night

Former Harrisburg City Council member Otto V. Banks made it official on Tuesday night, joining an increasingly crowded field of candidates for city mayor.

During a virtual announcement, Banks confirmed that he would seek the Democratic nomination for the city’s top elected office.

“Harrisburg has so much potential,” Banks said, making his announcement via an hour-long streamed video. “There’s nothing that we can’t achieve if we don’t come together and unify. We need to build a city that’s fair, accountable, inclusive and respectful.”

Banks is the fourth person who has stated his intention to run for Harrisburg mayor as a Democrat.

Last week, David Schankweiler, the former publisher of the Central Penn Business Journal, officially announced his candidacy, and city resident Lewis Butts recently stated on Facebook that he would make a third try for the office. Incumbent Mayor Eric Papenfuse has told TheBurg that he intends to run for a third term.

In his video, Banks, who served a single term on council from 2003-07, described a childhood growing up in houses in the city’s Capitol district and in Uptown, as well as his vision for the city, which, he said, includes promoting the arts, encouraging redevelopment and fostering opportunity.

“My sole job and purpose is to restore our collective hope and dreams of what Harrisburg can be by rebuilding our neighborhoods, creating safe and secure communities, targeting resources, growing local businesses, securing jobs for our residents and building a city where people want to come, stay, live and, above all, prosper,” he said in the video.

According to his online resume, Banks has served since 2010 as executive director of the Harrisburg-based nonprofit REACH Foundation and Alliance, which, on its website, describes itself as “champions of school choice for Pennsylvania families.” Prior to that, he served as a deputy assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under former President George W. Bush.

Until last year, Banks had been a registered Republican for over a decade. In his video, he said that he became a Republican because he felt he could do the most good for the community by switching parties from Democrat to Republican.

He said that he switched back to Democrat last year, nearly 3½ years into the Trump presidency, because he found “it impossible to be part of a party that is being led by someone who I believe is a racist.”

Last year, Banks also bought a house in Harrisburg, on the 1200-block of S. 19th Street, according to Dauphin County property records. According to the county, he still owns his long-time house in Swatara Township, which he bought in 2007 and which the county still lists as his mailing address.

Candidates for office are allowed to begin circulating their nominating petitions on Feb. 16, with a filing deadline of March 9. The municipal primary is slated for May 18.

Click here to watch the YouTube video of Banks’ mayoral candidacy announcement.

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