HEAD TO HEAD: Donatucci Vs. Harris in 185th’s Special Election

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MARIA DONATUCCI, widow of former incumbent State Rep. Robert Donatucci, knows her District and its politics well.

Tuesday morning, Feb. 1, may prove to be confusing to Philadelphians and Darbyites who are not included in the boundaries that make up the 185th Legislative Dist.

They may notice posters, polling data and people mingling around several polling places and wonder if they should check in to their regular polling place to see who is running and what election is occurring that day.

They will have guessed right if they live within the 185th Legislative Dist., which has a population of 59,643 and encompasses South Philadelphia’s 26th and 40th Wards as well as the Boroughs of Colwyn and Darby in Delaware Co.

The special election for the voters of the 185th is to elect a replacement for State Rep. Robert Donatucci. who held the office for 30 years, but died suddenly at the age of 58 on Nov. 9.

Nominated by the Democrat City Committee to replace him is his widow Maria Patelmo Donatucci, 54, the sister-in-law of Register of Wills Ronald Donatucci, ward leader of the 26th. The City GOP caucused and picked Lewis Harris, Jr., 61-year-old veteran in politics going back to 2004. According to his website, he ran for the 197th Legislative Dist. seat in North Philadelphia in 2004, only to lose heavily to State Rep. Jewell Williams.

Not challenged in the 197th race was the fact he was registered since  2003 in the 40th Ward in Southwest Philadelphia.

In 2003, Harris made news by becoming the North Philadelphia coordinator and opening a headquarters for Republican candidate for Mayor Sam Katz. He has been the CEO of the Wharton Center, Inc., located at 1710 N. 22nd Street, which is home of the United Minorities of Philadelphia Association of Contractors.

He again ran and lost as a Republican nominee for City Commissioner in November of 2007.

Seen the heavy favorite in this race is Donatucci, with an extensive hands-on experience in City government. She has experienced and understands the needs of the 185th Legislative Dist., having shared those with her husband, who brought those problems home with him.

She has had 14 years of experience of adjudicating and investigating parking matters, including public hearings, correspondence hearings and fleet hearings.

Her two children, Thomas, 25 and Diedre, 21, are of the age, she notes, “whereby I am free to devote, as did my husband Bob, to the needs of the 185th. Bob kept me thoroughly briefed on all vital community issues in which he was involved. At many times, when his job duties kept him in Harrisburg, I would meet with community representatives on his behalf to discuss the issues that mattered most to their communities.”

Her roots in the district are deep. She is a board member of the American Swedish Historical Museum, on the organizing the restoration of Girard Park, a founding member of the Colon Cancer Alliance, Past President of S.P. Lioness Lions Club and Girard Farms Community Club, among other associations.

Harris is a longtime North Philly political operative and businessman who manages the Wharton Centre, which is where Katz set up his campaign office, in the heart of North Philadelphia. It was that move that resulted in an alleged bomb attempt at the headquarters.

Harris says he works through the Centre to get jobs for welfare mothers and ex-cons. In previous elections, he set up campaign offices for John Street, and even Sharif Street, the Mayor’s son who ran for State Rep in 2002.

Harris and his wife of 30 years reside in the 40th Ward, in which he is a committeeman. He has three children and 11 grandchildren. His campaign website is lew4rep.com.

Insiders report a great deal of activity by the Democrat ward leaders in the District, with the 26th alone reporting over 500 absentee-ballot applications. The turnout, however, will be small because of the lack of coverage of the election in the general media.

The City Commissioners will be conducting Training Seminars for all the Division Election Board Members of the divisions involved in the special election. Classes will be held at South Philadelphia HS, Broad & Snyder Avenue on Jan. 29 beginning at 9 a.m. and on the hour until 3 p.m.

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