Voters in the 190th Pennsylvania House District in West Philadelphia will go to the polls Tuesday to choose a replacement for former Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown, who resigned “under protest” in December after she was convicted on bribery and other charges.
Movita Johnson-Harrell, formerly the chief crime victim’s advocate at the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, was chosen in January as the Democratic nominee by ward leaders in the district.
The Republican nominee is Michael Harvey, a local party committeeman. Two Democrats who failed to win the party’s nomination, Amen Brown and Pastor Pam Williams, collected enough signatures on nomination petitions to be listed as independents on the ballot.
An estimated 87 percent of voters in the district are registered Democrats.
The party’s first two choices withdrew from consideration after The Inquirer reported evidence questioning whether they were residents of the district, which includes the neighborhoods of Belmont, Carroll Park, Cathedral Park, Mill Creek, Haddington, East Parkside, West Powelton, Allegheny West, and Lehigh West.
Johnson-Harrell was nominated after ward leaders questioned her closely about a string of personal financial troubles. Last year, she closed the personal-care home she operated, and filed for bankruptcy in November, citing $607,429 in liabilities. That includes a $465,000 default judgment from a loan secured by the properties where she ran her business. She also has been the subject of several liens for unpaid Philadelphia property taxes.
Lowery Brown was reelected in November a few weeks after her conviction, but resigned before her new term would have begun in January. Tuesday’s winner will be sworn in to complete nearly all of her two-year term; state House members are paid $88,610 per year, plus expenses.
The state representative confessed she had taken $4,000 in 2013 in an undercover sting; she was recorded on video pocketing the money. But her legal team delayed her trial for four years, with a series of appeals arguing that the sting had unfairly targeted African American Democrats, and that she was entrapped by an undercover operative. She was sentenced to 23 months of probation and is appealing.