Grumbling Ahead of North Philly Special Election Vote Count

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)

One of the “write-in” candidates clinched the Special Election for District 197 in Philadelphia on Tuesday, but voters won’t know who it is until 9 a.m. Friday when Election Commissioner Lisa Deeley is expected to announce the results.

The unusual outcome saw Republican candidate Lucinda Little, the only candidate actually on the ballot, receive 198 votes, while 2,483 write-in votes were cast for Democratic candidate Emilio Vasquez and Green Party candidate Cheri Honkala.

Eighty-five percent of District 197’s registered voters are Democratic, 5% are Republican.

GOP reaction to the Republican candidate's loss was swift. House Republican leaders, including Rep. Martina White from Philadelphia, in a press conference Wednesday called for the state Attorney General to investigate what they allege were violations of the Election Code and irregularities during the voting.

The special election was prompted by the resignation of State Rep. Leslie Acosta after her money laundering conviction. It was then complicated by a court ruling disallowing the Democratic candidate who had been slated to be on the ballot. The judge ruled the candidate did not meet the residency requirements.

The whole process elicited strong reactions from Latino community leaders.

"I don't believe this election will resolve the issues in the 197th District. It's a set up for the next political fight," said former city Councilman Angel Ortiz.

Israel Colon, former director of the city’s Multicultural Office during Mayor Michael Nutter’s tenure, said the whole process has been disappointing.

“The infighting among that district’s [Democratic] party leadership is sad and disappointing to say the least,” he said. “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. 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.”

“And the consistent focus on criticizing the Latino community as the culprits for ‘embarrassing the party,’” Colon added, “rings of cultural racism to me.”

The outcome of the election will not affect the Republican majority (121-82) in the State House.