Individuals from several parties are joining together to challenge corruption in Pennsylvania's poorest District -- Philadelphia's district #197.
A History of Corruption
Democrats have ruled Philadelphia's district #197 (which is largely comprised of West Kensington) for decades. The last two Democratic State Representatives, Leslie Acosta and Jose Miranda, left office after corruption convictions: Acosta helped a former boss steal monies from a mental health clinic, and received a felony charge for money laundering; Miranda was similarly caught in a scheme to steal money from the pubic, giving monies that were registered to a 'ghost employee' to his sister.
Acosta's resignation, shortly after her November 2016 win, triggered a special election for the district.
A Rash of Irregularities Alleged in March Special Election
Democrat Emilio Vasquez won the special election in March 2017, beating Republican Lucinda Little and Green Party Cheri Honkala.
According to Honkala, in a statement for IVN, the Democrats engaged in massive voter fraud during the special election. Honkala says they have filed suit against the Democrats in Federal Court:
"Right now our attorneys are waiting to get a date to go to court. It will be fairly soon. It will be a full blow trial. We have dozens and dozens of people ready to testify from all of the wards about voter fraud and intimidation."
She said the mostly Democratic district experienced Democrats campaigning inside voting venues, and guiding individuals to vote for the Democratic write-in Emilio Vasquez:
"Most people in this district are Democrats. What is misleading, what most people don’t understand, is that on election day the only person on the ballot was Lucinda Little, who is a Republican, and then you could write in whoever. There was no party affiliation with anybody. The Democrats who control the wards convinced people that the neighborhood was under attack from Republicans. So, they set up tables up in front of the voting booths, and told people that they needed to sign in first and support the Democrats. That is illegal. Right outside each of the voting booths, they had a table to sign up…like there was a sign up process for election. Many of the polls had stamps for Emilio Vasquez inside where the tables are. Republicans were the only ones who had certificates and were allowed to have poll watchers. The Democratic and Green [Parties] were not on that ballot, so neither of us were allowed poll watchers. It was Democrats that controlled the tables, and Republicans that monitored as many as they could, but because there is a minority in this district there weren’t enough numbers. The ones that they did monitor, they saw people that were working the tables giving out Emilio stamps, when they're supposed to be just doing their job. They are not supposed to be campaigning for anybody."
Honkala also alleges that Democrats labeled her as a Republican in a false information campaign.
Philadelphia Republicans and Democrats did not immediately return a request for comment.
Individuals and Parties Working Together
Honkala's campaign is a collaborative work with and against the mainstream parties:
"Massive amounts of Democrats were working on my campaign, and were very supportive, and will be testifying in court. [They] are totally ashamed of their party, and really want to see an end to this as well. So, this is not about being an anti-Democratic party -- it’s anti-corruption, and anti-stealing votes. It is a very serious thing. People have fought and died for our right to vote."
Honkala told IVN that Robert Brady, the Chairman of the Philadelphia Democrats, approached her personally to ask her to join the Democratic party. She said she refused because they only asked her after their candidate was thrown off the ballot, and at that point she had thousands of people who were invested in her as a Green candidate. The Dems' first candidate, Freddy Ramirez, was kicked off the ballot because he was not from the district. Honkala said she is not currently open to joining the Democrats because she is disheartened by their corruption, though she says she will work with anyone who is serious about addressing important issues facing her district.The Green candidate is working across political lines to challenge Democratic party corruption in her community. "It is individuals. Democrats have come forward, including committee people, and it’s Greens and Republicans, and we are all tired of it."
"At some point," she said, "it goes back to seeing people as people, and not as party. [It] comes with ethics, integrity, values and morals. So, that is how we are approaching this."
Honkala says she wants the courts to throw out the special election, and schedule a new election within three months. The election commissioners, and the Secretary of State should also be held accountable by the courts, she said, "because they are responsible for election integrity."
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