Philadelphia Democrats showed their indifference to residents of North Philadelphia's 197th District when they allowed former State Rep. Leslie Acosta to run unopposed for reelection last year after she admitted to a felony. This is the same district where Acosta's predecessor, J.P. Miranda, pleaded guilty two years ago in a ghost-employee scam.
Now, just weeks before a March 21 special election, the Democratic candidate to replace Acosta rightly has been thrown off the ballot by a judge because he doesn't live in the district.
Democrats showed an appalling disregard for the district by choosing Frederick Ramirez as their candidate. They couldn't bother to check where Ramirez lived? Putting up a candidate who won't live among the people he or she wants to represent is an unfathomable insult. Not to mention being illegal in Pennsylvania. State House candidates must live among their constituents for a year before an election.
Democrats are now scrambling to put Emilio Vazquez, a Philadelphia Parking Authority employee, on the ballot. But they don't deserve another shot after the Ramirez fiasco. Attorney Linda Kerns used utility records and neighbors' testimony to prove to Commonwealth Court Judge Anne Covey that Ramirez lives outside the district. Vazquez can run as a write-in candidate, just like anyone else who missed the deadline to file.
Also running for the seat is anti-poverty advocate Cheri Honkala, who will be a write-in candidate because her Green Party failed to file all of its paperwork on time. Such a fundamental error isn't a very good sign of future job performance. But Honkala's knowledge of the district and history of activism gives her credibility.
The other candidate is Republican Lucinda Little, director of a research clinic. Having lived in the district 20 years, Little speaks knowledgably about abandoned lots and homes, trash, and crime. She wants to hear from potential constituents and believes being a Republican in a Republican-dominated legislature would be an asset in representing them.
Republicans don't deserve any applause for finding a reasonably good candidate to run for the seat. Even after the Inquirer reported that Acosta had secretly pleaded guilty to a felony, the GOP gave Acosta a free ride by failing to oppose her in the general election. But this isn't the only local race where the Republicans have been missing in action.
If either Little or Honkala wins, it's highly possible that Democrats would take back the seat quickly because they have an overwhelming voter registration edge. But voters in the 197th district shouldn't make it easy. They should withhold their votes from any candidate who isn't a smart, honest person who is familiar with the district's problems because he or she lives there.
Philadelphia's Democratic leaders, including party boss Bob Brady, his congressional colleagues Dwight Evans and Brendan Boyle, the city's state legislators, City Council members, and Mayor Kenney, need to prove they care enough about this city to field responsible candidates. Their cavalier treatment of the 197th district's residents was an insult that suggests their political dominance has made them arrogant.