It may be freezing outside, but things are heating up in what's expected to be one of the most competitive special elections in Philadelphia history.
On Tuesday, voters in the 170th Pennsylvania House of Representatives District will go to the polls to choose a successor to former State Rep. Brendan Boyle. Last year, Boyle ran simultaneously for reelection to his PA House seat as well as for Pennsylvania's 13th congressional district. He won both elections, and resigned from his PA House seat on Jan. 3.
Sarah Del Ricci was selected by the Democratic Party as their nominee. Martina White will be representing the Republicans.
The 170th district encompasses parts of Northeast Philadelphia. Before Democrat Boyle took office in 2009, the seat was a Republican stronghold, with Republicans Tom Gola, Alvin Katz, Frank Salvatore and George Kenney holding the seat since its creation in 1969. While Democrats outnumber Republicans citywide by a 7-1 margin, in this district, Democrats only have a 2-1 edge. According to City Commissioner Al Schmidt, there are currently 21,360 registered Democrats,10,621 registered Republicans and 4,091 other registered voters.
U-Turn caught up with White, 26, at a recent fundraiser. She was optimistic about putting the seat back in the control of the Republicans.
U-Turn spoke with Del Ricci, 34, today, who said she's running for the seat because "we don't want our neighbors to move out to the suburbs." She mentioned that former Gov. Ed Rendell, who has endorsed her candidacy, will be out with her tomorrow campaigning. "I care about the community. I want to improve upon it," she told me via telephone.
Both candidates told me they personally have knocked on thousands of doors over the past few months.
Both White and Del Ricci have a social media and Internet presence.
Del Ricci's campaign video can be seen here.
White's exclusive interview with U-Turn appears here.
This election has seen a split in labor, which, despite the Democratic registration edge, puts this election in play as a toss-up and too close to call.
If the Democrats succeed, they will cut their gap in the House. If Republicans succeed, it would be a pivotal moment in the Philly GOP's quest to turn things around for their local party.
Sam Katz, an independent mulling a run for mayor in the Fall, is backing White. "After meeting her and spending time with Martina, I was really struck by her quiet strength of character and her good heart," Sam wrote me via email yesterday. "She is a young woman with unlimited potential to be impactful. I wanted to encourage her effort."
The election will be held on Tuesday, March 24. Polls will be open from 7.a.m. – 8 p.m.