Real estate broker Barbara Capozzi, who finished a close second to state Rep. Kenyatta Johnson in the May 17 Democratic primary election for the 2nd District City Council seat, petitioned the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas yesterday afternoon to contest the race's results. Capozzi's legal challenge claims "widespread irregularities" in the race "compromised the election so severely that the results cannot be trusted to reflect the will of the Democratic voters."
The key issue here is the claim that a Philadelphia City Commission employee instructed poll workers in some parts of the district to cover up the name of attorney Damon Roberts, who withdrew from the race before election day but too late to have his name removed from the ballot. Roberts collected 319 votes, which were not counted. Capozzi claims he would have collected thousands more votes if his name were not covered in some polling places.
Race is a key factor here: Capozzi is white while Johnson, Roberts and community activist Tracey Gordon, who finished third in the primary, are African-American. Capozzi claims Johnson repeatedly urged Roberts to get out of the race.
"Given the racial demographics of the field and the district (approximately 49 percent of the residents are black and approximately 35 percent are white) Mr. Johnson made a concerted effort to secure his spot on the ballot as the only black candidate in the race," Capozzi's legal challenge says.
What it doesn't say: The race to replace the retiring Council President Anna Verna started as a crowded field but, one by one, Italian-American candidates bailed out and had their names removed form the ballot. Capozzi is asking a judge to throw out all of the votes in polling places where Roberts had his name covered on the ballot, order a new vote count and then declare a winner. Alternatively, she asks the judge to declare there was no winner in the race.