90% of all write-in voters voted for Emilio Vazquez for the 197th District special election. Vazquez is a nobody at the Philadelphia Parking Authority who was thrown-in at the last minute as a replacement for Frederick Ramirez, a resident of Bristol PA who was thrown off the ballot for living in Bristol. There was only one name on the ballot, Republican Lucinda Little.
The outcome seems quite unlikely given that Green Party candidate Cheri Honkalahad a significantly-sized ground campaign and produced a laundry-list of observations that make this outcome questionable. Honkala also had 3 months to campaign, whereas Vazquez had barely three weeks.
Yours truly witnessed polling place workers directly holding ink stamps in their hands. Stamps were being used to write-in votes in the voting machines.
One of the most egregious displays of impropriety occurred in the 43rd Ward where at several divisions polling place workers were holding the privacy curtains wide open where everyone could see whom the voter was voting for. In this video, the woman in the purple shawl is at a voting machine that is not even at her own division. She got up from her table to join 3 other poll workers and a judge of elections. Up to four polling place workers were trying to peek through a privacy curtain to ensure that the voter voted for Emilio Vazquez.
The election-day shenanigans in the barrio is a time-honored tradition and happens every election cycle. Progressives that hope to have any shot of electing a good-government candidate in the barrio were also treated to electioneering and an inordinate amount of “voter assists”, where a campaign worker pretends to help out a voter who does not know how to vote in order to get into the election machine with the voter. This election was unusual in that this is the first time the electioneering has been challenged with having to use the write-in process to elect their candidate, which made the electioneering much more visible and blatant.
House Republicans have asked PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro to launch an investigation into Tuesday’s election.
Several Republicans have signaled to Philadelinquency that as a reward for elections fraud they will not be allowing any legislation, including honoring-resolutions that may come from Mr. Vazquez to reach the floor of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for final passage; essentially turning Emilio Vazquez into a lame-duck legislator before he can assume the remainder of Leslie Acosta’s term.
Typically legislators who are not in the party that controls the chamber and have the clout to push forward legislation that the House will pass will often use honoring resolutions as a way to pander to voters to generate media interest in order to keep their names in the papers so voters continue to recognize them. Honoring resolutions typically pass a legislative body without much comment.
Emilio Vazquez is one of the Democratic ward leaders who precipitated this mess of a special election. His candidacy has lasted a short three weeks since his name was picked in a raucous meeting of angry and desperate Democrats at the Democratic City Committee headquarters.
That meeting was called because the DCC had lost a court challenge knocking their candidate Freddie Ramirez off the ballot for not living in the 197th District. That’s right, the political machine wanted to elect someone who doesn’t want to live next to his voters. Not just some days, but everyday.
After the court loss, the head of the local Democratic party, Congressman Bob Brady, called Lucinda Little asking her if she would be partial to setting up a deal to switch to the Democratic Party after election. The problem with his offer? He has nothing to give and in 2001–the last time such a deal was carried out between the Democratic City Committee and a winning Republican–the DCC reneged on the deal and refused to back the ex-Republican’s re-election campaign.
But the biggest reason to say no to Bob Brady is this: Democrats have no say in the state legislature and by default they can do nothing to help out the district in Harrisburg except debate bills on the floor and lobby Republicans to insert helpful language into legislation for them. But that’s about it.
In their desperation and with minutes to go until the polls open, the political machine has tried to paint the embarrassment as a Donald Trump-influenced conspiracy and to try to activate voters that Donald Trump somehow wants to “capture” places like Feltonville and Norris Square.
What makes the DCC mailers so hilarious is that Green Party candidate Cheri Honkala has been campaigning in the same area for two months as a write-in. Honkala is likely to come out with a higher write-in vote total.
If you haven’t been paying attention to this story, you should. It has everything that’s shitty about Philly politics all in one story, and it comes to a head this week:
Fakers in suits and pantsuits
Mental health clinics, but sadly nobody is a patient
All the candidates running for office except for 1 is a write-in
The one candidate on the ballot is a REPUBLICAN 😵
An election-day that’s likely to be filled with more drama
An election-eve vote counting scenario that is potentially going to have even more drama
Sadly, the only thing missing in this telenovela are hot guys with washboard abs who can’t keep their clothes on. I don’t think there’s been a more ridiculous race for a Pennsylvania State Representative seat as long as I have lived in PA, much less as long as I’ve been on this planet.
This photo (below) was passed on to me showing that there is yet another write-in candidate who might have thrown his hat, or MSPaint-produced campaign banner, and gotten into the anything-can-happen race to replace disgraced state representative Leslie Acosta.
Why This Shitshow Started in The First Place
Long story short, and that’s very hard with this story so you’ll just have to bear with me here: Leslie Acosta agreed to plead guilty in a conspiracy to commit money laundering charge related to a federal prosecution of Renee Tartaglione and Carlos Matos. If those names sound familiar it’s because Carlos Matos is a former Federal felon but also a long-time Democratic ward leader in the 197th District who is well-known in Kensington. Matos and Tartaglione are both being charged by the US Attorney over a Pennsylvania Medicaid billing scandal in relation to the Juniata Mental Health Center. Leslie Acosta used to work there. Los Federales accused Acosta of cashing checks out of the business and giving the proceeds to Tartaglione. The fraud trial is expected to start this coming May.
Leslie Acosta kept the plea deal secret and didn’t tell anyone about it. Unfortunately for her, the Pennsylvania Constitution does not allow anyone to sit in a public office who has a felony conviction. Since her plea deal guarantees she’s going to get one on her record, that means she would have no choice but to step aside or she would be forced out of Harrisburg by the legislature who would eject her. Acosta ran for re-election unopposed and won. But after that, word finally got out about her plea deal. Gov. Wolf begged Acosta to step aside but she refused. Republicans in Harrisburg watching from afar proceeded to formally eject Acosta from the state capitol. That forced her hand and she bowed out. The legislature chose this coming Tuesday, March 21 to select a replacement for the district.
In a normal world, few if any voters turn up, nobody knows who the candidates are to fill-in the vacancy and the local Democratic machine usually installs some protegé of another politician to fill the role. But in Planet Philadelphia things have gone wrong. So. Horribly. Wrong.
He Doesn’t Live Here
Somehow the Democratic party in Philly thought it would be a good idea to allow a soon-to-be felon to help decide who her successor would be. Leslie Acosta lobbied for a guy named Frederick Ramirez to replace her. This photo of where Leslie Acosta’s state rep office is located tells you a lot about her chosen replacement:
Ahh yeah. There’s Leslie Acosta’s office with her sign up on the 2nd floor and below her sign is a sign for another pill hut. Er, sorry… did I say “pill hut?” I meant to say “yet another mental health resource center.” Because, you know, living in the 197th District with its shitty political representation problems can cause you to have a mental break and you might need these types of services to make sense of it all.
That pesky PA Constitution demands that you live next to the poor schmucks you want to represent in the state house. Pennsylvania politicos have never taken that rule seriously since proving residency in a court challenge is quite difficult. But it wasn’t difficult with Freddie Ramirez. The Republican City Committee took Ramirez to court since in this election they did put a candidate on the ballot, Lucinda Little. Republicans did not think it was fair that Ramirez was using a house he had converted to a storage locker around the corner from one of his clinics was sufficient for residency, especially so since Ramirez is listed in the Bristol, PA phonebook and has been a member of the Bristol rotary club for a long time.
On the witness stand, Ramirez stated that he does reside in the city–a lot. Just not always at his house in the 197th District. He testified that when he’s in town he stays at his daughter’s house. The trouble with his answer there is that his daughter lives in Roxborough, which is not a neighborhood that’s inside the 197th District. This testimony combined with 24 months of water bills showing almost no usage led Commonwealth Court judge Anne Covey to conclude that Ramirez doesn’t live here and therefore is disqualified from being a candidate on the ballot.
It also looks like someone didn’t take kindly to that news…
Too Late, Too Bad
Judge Covey’s decision threw Democrats into disarray. What now?
After a fractious meeting at Philadelphia Democratic City Committee headquarters on a Saturday afternoon the seven ward leaders who screwed up their nomination of Ramirez then decided to put forward one of their own: Emilio Vazquez, a PPA employee.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with Vazquez as a candidate. He lives in the district and he has a steady job. He doesn’t have a platform or a plan for the district but that’s not a problem–the last two occupants of the 197th state rep seat didn’t either. Sheriff Jewell Williams who is also one of the ward leaders of the district held this state rep seat for eleven years and did not write one solid piece of legislation to help the district out that entire time. Democrats just needed a “butt-warmer”, that’s it.
The problem with Democrats putting Vazquez forward as a candidate is that his papers were filed way past the deadline to run as a candidate. When the Republicans challenged Ramirez on his candidacy there was still over a week left to swap his name out and replace him with a different candidate. The lockout expired during the course of the trial to kick Ramirez off the ballot. Once that deadline passed, the state elections board would not accept any more filings. The City Commissioner’s office followed-up with a statement that it had already started printing plates for the voting machines and was busy programming them–it’s too late to adapt the voting machines to a last-second change.
Democrats headed back to court anyway, this time praying for a miracle and it didn’t get it. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, possibly fearing future ramifications if it allowed election challenges to go on after voting machines were being set-up, threw out the appeal with a one-sentence denial order.
For the first time ever the Democratic party is forced to campaign for a seat they’ve held for over 50 years.
Progressives Can’t Get Their Shit Together Either
Besides Democrat vs. Republican court battles there was another trip to court by Green Party candidate Cheri Honkala. Honkala didn’t get her paperwork filed correctly by the deadline and was denied a button on the voting machine.
Had everything proceeded normally Honkala would have not gotten any attention at all from local progressives over this state rep seat. But thanks to Republicans knocking the Democrat off the ballot machine–not having that paperwork filed suddenly mattered. A lot.
Sensing the possibility that there could be a race with no Democrat on the voting machine, Honkala and the Greens took their case to the PA Supreme Court. They were shot down.
The Philly VOICE threw together this glowing-profile of Honkala. It was only last year that local media only took interest in her for holding a fart-in at the DNC to get some local human-interest clicks. [That’s a nice way of saying that most local media only considered Honkala to be a joke]
Suddenly all that has to be brushed aside because Holy Jesus there’s only a Republican on the voting machine and no one else. Egads!
At community meetings Honkala has vowed to turn her state rep office into a homeless shelter if she’s elected. Those will be the 6 luckiest people in the 197th District. So if you’re homeless be sure to turn up to vote–you may win a bed!
More Court Drama Is Expected
If you think just the fight over the ballot was bad, I fully-expect there will be another battle over what happens on Election Day and later-on that evening when the votes are actually counted up. Given that the electorate is 85% registered Democrats, the expected turnout on Tuesday will be super low and the chance of anyone winning this is the easiest it’s ever been a whole smattering of write-in candidates have surfaced.
First off: Norris Square is infamous for Election Day shenanigans. Right around from Senator Christine Tartaglione’s house (and inside the 197th District) is a polling station where four election workers were charged and arrested for elections fraud. This area has also been known for fistfights that have occurred outside polling stations and heavy amounts of electioneering with campaign workers campaigning inside polling stations and Spanish-speaking interpreters being accused of guiding voters hands to “preferred” candidates. Mind you, this takes place in an area of the city where Democrats aren’t used to running with any opposition from other parties. This crap happens when there’s Democrats challenging each other.
The second and much more likely source of court drama will be the outcome of write-in voting. There are several scenarios that can happen in this special election:
Republican Lucinda Little could amass more votes than the total number of write-ins. In which case, the election is pretty-much wrapped-up unless the break-down of the write-in candidates reveals one of the write-in candidates comes within a few votes shy of beating Little.
A write-in avalanche swamps the amount of votes for Little and one of the write-in candidates or more top Little’s vote tally, in which case everyone goes back to court to scrutinize the write-in tapes.
Or, and this is equally likely: a complete total shit show where Little and one or more of the write-ins amass close vote totals and it turns a three-way court battle where Little and two of the write-in candidates challenge opposing write-in votes.
Last but not least there’s one more lawsuit threat in the works. Write-in candidate Orlando Acosta (no relation to Leslie) has vowed to challenge the legitimacy of the entire special election. He ran as a write-in candidate when Leslie Acosta was originally up for re-election. He contends that Leslie Acosta’s election was invalid at the time she ran therefore he should have been the declared-winner. Because the PA Supreme Court did not weigh in on his petition he surmises that because they have weighed in on three other candidates (Cheri Honkala, Freddie Ramirez, Emilio Vazquez) they will re-visit Leslie Acosta’s re-election race.
No Democrat Poll Watchers Allowed
Oh yes, one more thing–and this is also causing lots of stomach cramps with the Democratic City Committee: the City Commissioners has blocked registered Democrats from getting poll watcher certificates. The reason: there is no Democratic candidate on the voting machines. This means the only people allowed in a polling place this coming Tuesday are the election workers themselves, a Spanish-speaking interpreter and any Republican poll watcher holding a valid poll watcher certificate.
Poll watchers monitor for election law violations and report those up to the District Attorney’s office and their local party organization so lawyers can get engaged whenever there is any polling place shenanigans going on.
The Democratic City Committee went back to court to challenge this so they could get their poll watchers in and this too was shot down.
In total there have been 5 separate lawsuits over this one state rep seat.
This is the craziest local election ever, right?
Some folks have estimated there are as many as 30 different write-ins but I can tell you the confirmed total is really 6. Here’s their profiles:
My name is Edward Lloyd a long time and dedicated City and State Elected Committeeman 2nd and 3rd Senatorial Districts 42nd for 8 years, City Committeeman for 26 years and former Ward Chairman of the 42nd Ward, 6th and 21st Divisions some of you may know me and a few of you may have heard of me.
I still remember the words of my father Edward Lloyd, Sr. My father said, “Son, I am a servant of the people. An opportunity to help people means everything to me.” When I would hear comments like these, it would only strengthen my resolve to follow in his footsteps in politics. I knew at an early age watching my father that hard work paid off. I shocked the so-called naysayers in 2009 when I won as a write in for Pennsylvania Democratic Executive State Committee serving the 2nd Senatorial District. This was a historic victory. Now I’m beginning another historic campaign. And I need you to be part of it. I, respectfully and graciously ask for your support as the Write-In Candidate since the nominated candidate was recently removed by court order.
Presently, the Democrats cannot afford to lose this seat to the Republicans or any other party. I have the easiest name as a Write-In “Ed Lloyd” and I have been somewhat successful in previous elections in getting voters to Write me. In the past, I acquired the most Write-In Votes, but unfortunately I did not win enough votes to beat the incumbent. In spite of this, I never gave up fighting to represent the people in the 197th District, but with your support as the –Committeemen/Committeewomen in the 197th — Together” we can prevent losing this seat to the Republicans. I am prepared to fight for this seat in the special election on March 21, 2017. I am asking for your help. Together we can win and I will not let you down. All I am asking you for is an opportunity to serve the people.
Orlando Acosta is a perennial candidate for the 197th District. He ran against Leslie Acosta (no relation). After it was learned that she had secretly pled guilty to conspiracy for money laundering, Acosta filed a challenge in Commonwealth Court to have Leslie Acosta’s re-election victory invalidated. Orlando Acosta was a write-in candidate last year and claimed in his suit that because Acosta’s candidacy was void, he should have won the state representative seat.
He has been a vocal critic of Leslie Acosta’s time serving as the 197th District state representative.
Cheri Honkala is arguably the most famous of Philly’s perennial political candidates, second only to T. Milton Street, Sr. She’s the leader for the Poor People’s Human Enonomic Rights Campaign. An activist for over three decades, Cheri is well-known in Kensington for riding a horse at the famous intersection of K&A: Kensington and Allegheny Avenues when she ran for sheriff.
While she’s the member of the Green Party and their endorsed candidate for this race, her name won’t appear on the ballot. Honkala says the reason why is that they filed “one paper one day late” at the Pennsylvania Department of State. For that she’s been excluded from the ballot on Mar 21.
Probably one of the more esoteric perennial candidates out there is Juan Rodriguez, self-styled founder of “The Legend Foundation” which is a bootstrap community organization that does cleanups and helping out people in need.
Emilio Vazquez is the Democratic pick for the 197th District. He’s an auditor at the Philadelphia Parking Authority and had to take a furlough from his job.
Vazquez doesn’t have a platform or anything other than “he’s a Democrat,”which in this district is the functional equivalent of saying “I breathe oxygen and convert it to carbon dioxide.”
We’re all willing to bet just about everyone running as a write-in except Honkala is also a Democrat or will behave like one when elected, so if anyone had any suspicions that an anti-immigration activist from the Bible Belt were somehow in this race, you’d have a greater chance of encountering the Chupacabra.
The district itself is 85% Democrat and even the Republican candidate on the machine was a Democrat for decades.
If you elect Vazquez, the Parking Authority CEO Clarena Tolson (we all love her) will have to find a 20-something Democrat who has some relationship to a Democratic ward leader to replace him with. Maybe Vazquez will pick his successor like Acosta did?
A series of Facebook chats reveal State Rep. Angel Cruz (D), voted one of the worst ward leaders in the city by PhillyMag, is talking tough about keeping the 197th state representative district in control of Democrats. Specifically, a Latino Democrat.
That could prove to be a bit tough right now.
Most of it all hinges on the outcome of this Commonwealth Court case. See, the 197th district is vacant because former Democratic State Rep Leslie Acosta hid the fact that she pled guilty to conspiracy for money laundering at the very last second. This helped her to secure a new term unopposed but she was forced to resign because felons cannot serve in the PA House of Representatives according to the state constitution.
After Acosta’s hasty exit, Democratic ward leaders got together and selected Bucks County resident Fred Ramirez as their replacement. He went down in a ball of flames.
Democrats are now back in court trying to get ward leader and PPA employee Emilio Vazquez on the ballot so that way they don’t have to worry about knocking on doors or running a campaign. That’s not likely to happen as it is not expected that the Democratic City Committee will prevail on the appeal–there is no longer a valid ballot petition with which to substitute the Democrat’s previous candidate.
To say that this hasn’t created chaos is an understatement. Acosta has been politicking from her Facebook account ever since it became public she pled guilty. She was even doing it today and blocked me when I called her out on it. Acosta is permanently barred from ever holding public office in Pennsylvania because of her conviction.
Further in the Facebook chatter is a thread where Rep. Cruz offers to provide the use of a nightclub as a staging area for Vazquez’s campaign. Vazquez did not respond to the offer. It also featured appearances by Cruz-ally Manny Morales who ran against Councilwoman María Quiñones-Sánchez posting funny videos, which is a relief over some of the shit he used to post to Facebook.
If you’re down for watching some of your elected officials and their toadies talking like teenagers, this is the thread for you. Have fun reading!
You will be shocked to know that it has suddenly become quite easy to become a state representative in Harrisburg. You don’t need to do much campaigning (but you should try), and you certainly don’t need to worry about any political parties or what your own political registration is.
The ease in which you can become a politician and represent 60,000 people who live in Philly emerged just last week. This is a chance in a lifetime and you will likely never see a chance like this ever again. There is a Pennsylvania House representative seat up for grabs and it’s anybody’s game.
And believe me it’s simple as writing your name. You can get started faster than the time it takes to boil dehydrated noodles in the microwave.
Wanna get started? I’ll show you how.
1 person: You.
You must live inside this area. It’s called the 197th Legislative District. Click here to read why the seat is vacant right now–it’s a whole big drama thang.
You need to be at least 21 years old.
You had to have been a citizen of Pennsylvania (a state resident) for four years. It doesn’t matter when.
You must be a citizen of the United States.
You need to have lived inside the 197th District (see that map again) since Mar 21, 2016. The Democrats picked someone who didn’t meet this criteria and that’s why there’s all this chaos right now.
You need to have not been convicted of any crime.
You do NOT…
Need to be registered in any political party
Need to go get signatures, your name is not going to be on the ballot
Need to file campaign finance paperwork. That’s for people whose names are going to be printed on the ballot.
Need to find some way to train people who want to vote for you how to do a write in on the voting machine. It’s not simple.
Raise money. Printing costs for leaflets are high. Paying volunteers to help you costs even more. Setup a donation site.
Get the word out that you’re running. Besides Facebook the best way to get people to pay attention to you is by door knocking.
The easiest audience to attract are the people who already know you and live near you. There’s no need to remind them that you live nearby and you know what the major gripes are in your neighborhood.
Above all: The special election is on March 21, only three weeks away.