Democrat Wins Surprise Write-In Election in North Philadelphia's 197th District

After Emilio Vazquez pulled off a surprise victory in a Philadelphia special election, one opponent is demanding a new election. Cheri Honkala, the Green Party candidate, says she wants that new election, saying she plans to file a federal lawsuit.

(Published Friday, March 24, 2017)

Democratic write-in candidate Emilio Vazquez pulled off a surprise victory in a North Philadelphia special election to replace disgraced state Rep. Leslie Acosta, who gave up her seat following a corruption conviction.

His victory was announced Friday morning after the city Election Board hand tallied all 2,483 write-in votes.

NBC10’s Pamela Osborne reports from North Philadelphia where a special election is being held to become the state house representative for the 197th district. (Published Tuesday, March 21, 2017)

Vazquez became an improbable winner in a race that saw the Democrat originally slated for the ballot knocked off following a residency challenge.

That left only Republican candidate Lucinda Little on the ballot for a district -- the 197th -- that is 85 percent Democrat and 5 percent Republican. Little received only 198 votes on Tuesday.

The write-in votes were tallied in about three hours by election workers for the Philadelphia City Commissioners.

Vazquez received 1,964 votes, followed by Cheri Honkola, who received 280 votes, Deputy Commissioner Tim Dowling said.

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Another 120 or so votes were "scattered" among other people, Dowling said.

All of the ballots cast will be preserved for any potential legal challenges, which candidates Little and Honkola have voiced as a possibility.

Leaders of the Pennsylvania Republican Party even gathered to call into question the results. A day after the special election, a group of Republicans called for the state attorney general to investigate what they alleged were violations of the election code and irregularities during the voting.

Meanwhile, Latino leaders in the community expressed their own concern for a process that led to a special election without a Democrat on the ballot.

“It just continues to substantiate why voters in that district have earned the right to be cynical. The 197th has made national news as a symbol of the Democratic party’s weakness," Israel Colon, former director of the city’s multicultural office during Mayor Michael Nutter’s tenure, told NBC10 this week. "What is happening in this sector of the Latino community is nothing more than a microcosm of an antiquated Democratic party in our city that has lost its way -- only concerned with preserving its power and its own existence.”

Editor's note: Earlier version of this story reported Emilio Vazquez's name as Vasquez.