POLS ON THE STREET: Sims Steals Base From Josephs

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UPSET VICTOR Brian Sims, who unseated veteran State Rep. Babette Josephs in 182nd House Dist., is congratulated by fiscal activist Brett Mandel, right. Attorney Sims, celebrating at Woody’s Bar in Center City, will become first openly gay legislator in Harrisburg.

Biggest win of this primary season went to attorney Brian Sims, who toppled veteran State Rep. Babette Josephs in the 182nd Dist. in the Democrat primary election. This district, which takes in portions of Center City and South Philadelphia, is the center of the gay community has enough strength to favor Sims becoming the first openly gay lawmaker in Harrisburg.

Sims is no newcomer to politics; in fact, he was Josephs’ own campaign treasurer in an earlier cycle. But his well-funded race eked out a 52-48% victory in a high-turnout contest.

Josephs is no piker. She has a 28-year history of battling for progressive causes dear to her constituents. Over time, though, she lost key connections to the district’s crucial 8th Ward. Her Center City communities have seen heavy immigration by educated young voters with no ties to past campaigns and familiar faces. In the end, the victory of 33-year-old Sims over 72-year-old Josephs was a triumph for the younger generation as much as for sexual orientation.

A similar youth-vs.-age challenge played out across the Schuylkill in West Philadelphia. Here, though, State Rep. Jim Roebuck, a veteran, fended off a ferocious assault by a youngster who was born when he first went to the State House 27 years ago. Fatimah Muhammad, a community organizer with a Penn degree, tackled the 188th Dist., which includes the plum Penn and Drexel campuses, with vigor – and lots of cash. Her money came from State Sen. Tony Williams, who in turn is endowed with wealthy angels in the school-choice movement of which he is an advocate. Roebuck, Democrat Chair of the Education Committee, is a staunch anti-voucher man as is his mentor, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell.

Late returns bedeviled this race into Wednesday, but Roebuck turned aside Muhammad’s push in the end by about 55-45%. The incumbent enjoyed the support of the Pennsylvania Federation of Teachers as well as the ward leaders in his district.

Tuesday night marked both a win and a loss for Republican aspirant in the Northeast’s 169th Dist. Dave Kralle. The former chief aide to State Rep. Denny O’Brien, the youthful Kralle easily turned aside a primary bid by John McCann, so he will be on the November ballot.

Alas for Kralle, he will be running against an incumbent by then-Democrat Ed Neilson, who was unopposed in his own primary. In Tuesday’s special election to fill the seat of O’Brien, who stepped down when he was elected to City Council, Neilson took a long-Republican House seat from Kralle 54-46%.

Neilson, a former government-relations specialist for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, was privy to all the resources of his former bosses Gov. Ed Rendell and Local 98 Business Mgr. John Dougherty.

Kralle suffered from a fractured and impoverished city Republican Party which can do little to aid its own. This fall will show if the GOP can regain its cohesion enough to take back the seat.

Before covering the rest of the House and Senate races in this City, it is interesting to call attention to the fact Republicans outvoted Democrats statewide and that is because Philadelphia Democrats fell asleep at the switches, save for those seats that were hotly contested.

Tom Smith’s victory over the endorsed Republican candidate for US Senate, Steve Welch, and four others, sent a message to the governor his Republican Party is not happy with his reign and Gov. Corbett needs to make peace in Philly if he wants to cut into the expected Democrat turnout here.

David Freed, the Republican nominee for Attorney General, will have to campaign hard to beat Democrat Kathleen Kane, who outspent Pat Murphy to become the Democrat nominee for Attorney General.

For Auditor General, endorsed Republican candidate John Maher easily bested Frank Pinto and will face incumbent Jack Wagner. It’s Diane Irey Vaughn, the GOP challenger to incumbent State Treasurer Rob McCord.

Pairing off in the State Senate races in the city will be Republican Alfonso Gambone, Jr. against State Sen. Lawrence Farnese in the 1st; going to Harrisburg without Republican opposition in the fall are State Sens. Shirley Kitchen in the 3rd Dist. and Vincent Hughes in the 7th.

State Sen. Mike Stack faces a Republican challenge from Michael Tomlinson in the 5th. Hughes has a free ride in the 7th.

Back to Congress were Members Bob Brady in the 1st, Chaka Fattah in the 2nd and Allyson Schwartz in the 13th. All face nominal Republican opponents: John Featherman in the 1st, Robert Allen Mansfield in the 2nd and James Joseph Rooney in the 13th.

Republican George Weiss swill face State Rep. Brendan Boyle in the 170th; Republican Al Taubenberger will challenge Kevin Boyle in the 172nd. Boyle easily bested Daniel Collins by almost a two-to-one majority in a victory that should send opposition forces a message the Boyle Brothers are here to stay as a strong combo in the Northeast.

In the 173rd, State Rep. Mike McGeehan has a well-deserved ride to Harrisburg unopposed by a Republican candidate. The same goes for State Rep. John Sabatina, Jr. in the 174th and Michael O’Brien in the 175th.

State Rep. John Taylor remains the only Republican incumbent in the House, holding down the 177th. He probably will continue to do so, though he faces a stiff challenge from William Dunbar in November.

James Clay, Jr., has to have been born under a lucky star. He became the Democrat heir apparent to State Rep. Tony Payton, when the incumbent’s petitions were successfully challenged. Uncontested in November, he will be headed to Harrisburg.

State Rep. Angel Cruz can’t remember when he has had a conflict free primary in the 180th. But he sent a message this time to his most persistent primary challenger, Jonathan Ramos. He beat Ramos by almost 500 votes, increasing his performance from their competition two years ago by over 200 votes. He can relax now, without a Republican opponent to contend with in November.

State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas continues his grip on the 181st Dist. seat and will not have opposition from a Republican candidate in November.

In the 184th, State Rep. Bill Keller continues to enjoy almost unanimous support in that district, unchallenged in the primary and general election. The same can be said of State Rep. Maria Donatucci, who will be returning unchallenged for her first full term. She was elected in a special election last year to fill the seat left vacant by the death of her husband Robert Donatucci.

With the strength of State Sen. Anthony Williams and the party organization, Harris Jordan easily topped his opposition with over 75% of the vote to become the Democrat candidate in the 186th Dist. He would have been on his way to Harrisburg had he elected to join the race for the special election to fill the void left by Councilman Kenyatta Johnson. That special race was deeded over to former State Rep. Harold James, who will return to his old home on the Hill until Dec. 31.

In the 190th, State Rep. Vanessa Brown bested tough opposition from Wanda Logan, Audrey Watson Blackwell and Lemuel Thornton, coming in with 44% of the vote.
State Rep. Ronald Waters, chairman of the Pennsylvania Black Caucus in the state House, coasted to an easy win without opposition in the primary and none in the general.

Despite using robo-calls, Will Mega suffered a tremendous defeat in his repeat performance to take on State Rep. Louise Bishop in the 192nd. She took 78% of the vote and has no Republican opposition.

State Rep. Pam DeLissio out voted Longshoreman Ray Bailey with 7%% of the vote in her 194th Dist., but will faced Linda Wolfe Bateman in the general election.
In the 195th, State Rep. Michelle Brownlee captured 58% of the vote over stiff challenges by Andrew Kleeman, Takkeem Morgan and Mike Jones. She has no Republican opposition in the general.

In what could be considered an upset, J. P. Miranda, backed by State Sen. Shirley Kitchen, edged out Ms. Jewel Williams, whose dad, Sheriff Jewell Williams, had held the 197th seat. Miranda faces Steve Crum, who is the Republican nominee. Ward Leader Gary Williams will represent the 197th Dist. until Dec. 31, having won the special election easily with 75% of the vote.

State Rep. Rosita Youngblood has proved again she knows her district and her voters love her. She beat back strong challenges from Charisma Presley and Malik Boyd. She faces no general-election opposition.

State Rep. Cherelle Parker continues to do right by her constituents in the 200th Dist., collecting 98.29% of the vote over challenger Bobbie Curry. She has no Republican opposition in the general.

In another tough contest, Stephen Kinsey, who had the party endorsement, captured 45%of the vote over challengers Michael Ellis and Karl Gamble.
State Rep. Mark Cohen, took off from his Facebook chores long enough to take 64% of the vote from a challenger Numa St. Louis in the 202nd. He has a clear path back to the House in November with no GOP opposition.

In the 203rd, State Rep. Dwight Evans crushed Lamont Thomas with 82% of the vote and is on his way back to the House without November opposition.
The biggest challenges among Republicans were found in the races for Republican National Convention Delegates. It was obvious the recommended Republican City Committee delegates controlled the outcomes.

Winners in the 1st Dist. were Marian Taxin, Chris Vogler and Tom Boggia. In the second, they were Walter Vogler, Calvin Tucker and Lewis Harris. The 13thg Dist. victors were William Donnelly, Mike McMonagle and Thomas Jay Ellis.

Alternates in the 1st went to William Pettigrew, Thomas Danzi and Seth Kaufer; in the 2nd, to Karen Ash, Fran O’Brien and Lewis Gould, Jr. The 13th Dist. alternates were Steven Boc and Agnes Tilley.

Democrat City Committee slates for delegates were all unopposed and all winners.

A law designed to reduce prison crowding is making state lawmakers convicted of public-corruption charges eligible for early release.
The Recidivism Risk Reduction Incentive provides early parole to nonviolent offenders who complete improvement programs in state prison. A state report in January said the law has saved $37 million in prison costs. Former House Speaker John Perzel will be eligible for parole almost eight months early because he qualifies under the law for which he voted.

“We didn’t know these possible circumstances” when legislators approved the law in 2008, said former House Speaker Dennis O’Brien. “Clearly, it does apply to them because they are nonviolent offenders.”

A judge in March sentenced the Philadelphia Republican to 2.5 to 5 years in prison for approving the state’s purchase of $10 million in sophisticated computer programs used for Republican campaigns. The law makes Perzel eligible for parole in 22.5 months, or February 2014.

“This year the Party ballot lists its choices from the President to our State Representative with button numbers. Patrick Murphy, whom we are supporting, stands out in that his name and number are in red. The bullet ballot given out by the unions lists only Patrick Murphy, identifying him as endorsed by Pennsylvania AFL-CIO and the Fraternal Order of Police. Missing is his button number, reports veteran activist Hal Rosenthal.

“Then there is an excellent doorhanger paid for by Local 98’s COPE. It is one of the best I have ever seen. It plays up Murphy and his machine button 105. Besides asking to vote for Allyson Schwartz and Brendan Boyle, it also wants a vote for Bobby Henon for City Council. I suppose 98’s COPE is looking ahead to his reelection three years hence.”

Independents, not eligible to vote in the primary for party candidates, were being told in one division in the 169th Dist. they also could not vote in the special election to fill the vacant House seat. That obvious error resulted in some being turned away until election officials jumped in to correct the situation. They could have voted on ballot questions, had they been on the primary ballot. Independents sadly lose a great deal in primaries.

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