It’s only been nine months since the last special election for West Philadelphia’s 190th District seat in the state House of Representatives.
Now we are gearing up for another, since Friday is State Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell’s last official day in office. Her first official day in prison has yet to be determined.
Johnson-Harrell, the second Democrat in a row to resign in disgrace from that seat amid criminal charges, was charged last week with stealing more than $500,000 from a nonprofit to fund a lavish lifestyle, with fur coats, family vacations, and designer clothes. State Attorney General Josh Shapiro says a guilty plea is in the works and will include jail time.
The Democratic City Committee had a mess of a time selecting a candidate for the last special election. Johnson-Harrell was the third choice, after Clout raised questions about whether the first two contenders lived in the district.
“We’re going to really scrutinize this one,” local Democratic Party Chairman Bob Brady said. The party has until Jan. 12 to pick a nominee.
At least seven people are interested this time. Winning the Democratic nomination can seal the deal, since 87% of voters in the district are registered Democrats.
Enter the Working Families Party, which clashed with local Democratic leadership in the general election for City Council, and got Kendra Brooks elected to a City Council at-large seat.
The progressive organization is holding a town hall meeting Wednesday evening in the 190th District to ask voters what they’re looking for in a representative, according to Vanessa Clifford, the Working Families Party political director for Pennsylvania and Delaware. Nicolas O’Rourke, a Working Families Party Council candidate who didn’t win in last month’s election, will run the show as the party’s new state organizing director.
Clifford said her party is getting a lot of pitches from people interested in seeking the seat.
“Most of the candidates have reached out to me,” she said. “My phone has been blowing up.”
Among the potential candidates who confirmed their interest to Clout: Ray Bailey from Local 1291 of the International Longshoremen’s Association; Jabari Jones of the West Philadelphia Corridor Collaborative, marketing consultant Rashaad Lambert; and Pastor Pam Williams and Amen Brown, who both ran as independent candidates in the March special election won by Johnson-Harrell.
Brady said Danyl Patterson, who ran unsuccessfully for a judgeship in 2017, has expressed an interest. And Clifford said Roni Green, business agent for SEIU Local 668, is mulling a run.
The state Election Code requires House Speaker Mike Turzai, an Allegheny County Republican, to call a special election within 10 days of a vacancy in the office. That election must be held at least 60 days after that. So a special election could happen as early as mid-February.
Special elections cost about $175,000 when held apart from regular elections, an approach Turzai has signed off on several times in recent years. And they can complicate the primary election planning process.
City elections officials, who still haven’t requested reimbursement from the state for March’s special election, plan to ask for this one to run concurrently with the April 28 presidential primary.
Ain’t no party like a City Commissioner Anthony Clark party …
Clout will miss City Commissioner Anthony Clark, who is leaving office as the year ends.
Not in the office, of course. He was rarely there.
Not on Election Day, either, because he wasn’t all that great at making sure to vote — despite being elected to, um, run elections.
What could be more Philly, or more Cloutable?
Well, maybe this: We hear Clark may not get a farewell party. Or maybe, as the joke around the office goes, they will throw him a big party and nobody will show up.
Apparently, Clark isn’t just an absentee commissioner. We hear he has a history of not paying for parties thrown by the office.
And when the grand dame of Philly elections, Marge Tartaglione, died in July, Clout hears, Clark didn’t join the other commissioners in putting up a little money to send something to the family.
Clark, laughing, said he knows nothing about it.
“I was at Marge’s funeral,” he said when asked. “I don’t know anything about it. … I gave my own card and everything to the family.”
Maybe it was too expensive. He’s only getting $414,326 in a DROP payment when he retires, after all.
“Pennsylvania is the single most important swing state in the country. I truly believe that. And it’s going to be incredibly competitive. It’s about margins in smaller counties. Those are the individuals that Donald Trump speaks to. Those are the individuals who feel left behind by a lot of the recent economic trends and turns. And it’s going to come down to battles in small places and counties that a lot of people haven’t heard of, not Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. I always try to push back on this notion that there is a blue wave in Pennsylvania. There is not.”