BY TONY WEST/ If their petitions hold up, a host of firefights will liven up two State Senate primary races in Philadelphia as well as most State House races. Itâ€™s the year of the challenger, thatâ€™s for sure.
Spiking ambitions in the 2014 Democratic primary is this is the first election in which redistricting from the 2010 census takes effect. So all incumbents now represent voters who never heard of them before. Some are more vulnerable than others. If there is ever a time for a newcomer to beat them, it is this May. Itâ€™s an opportunity that wonâ€™t soon recur.
These challenges became clear after the last petitions were filed at City Hall on Mar. 11. City Commissionâ€™s resident election expert Tim Dowling said he had already received 70 petition challenges and expected a busy week ahead.
Much ink has already been spilled over Councilwoman Maria QuiÃ±ones SÃ¡nchezâ€™ campaign to found her own stable of state legislators in the stateâ€™s Latino heartland around Kensington. Her husband TomÃ¡s SÃ¡nchez is storming State Sen. Tina Tartaglioneâ€™s castle, the 2nd Senatorial Dist., alongside 23rd Ward Leader Danny Savage, a former Councilman. As a rule, three-way races are won by the incumbent, who has strong backing in this case.
Of sudden interest, though, is the three-way race against an incumbent in the 4th Senatorial Dist, where State Sen. LeAnna Washington (D-Northwest) has just been indicted by Attorney General Kathleen Kane on charges of using staff time for campaign fundraising. Two credible opponents have filed petitions.
Art Haywood has been Cheltenham Township Commissioner since 2009. An attorney specializing in nonprofit work, He received his BA magna cum laude from Morehouse College in 1979, his MSc from the London School of Economics & Political Science in 1981 and his JD from the University of Michigan Law School in 1985.
Brian Gralnik is an Elkins Park native. He is director of the Center for Social Responsibility at Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and brings a wide network of regional contacts to his campaign.
All three candidates live in Cheltenham in Montgomery Co. Two-thirds of the districtâ€™s voters live in Northwest Philadelphia, however, which Washington has been serving since 1993. That sort of name recognition is tough to overcome, even despite a burst of bad press, among city primary voters.
In the 8th Senatorial Dist., State Sen. Anthony Williams (D-W. Phila.) also faces a suburban challenger, Christopher Broach, who in 2012 won 10 minutes of fame as a Colwyn Borough Judge of Elections when he announced he would not enforce the voter photo-ID law. That law has since been put on hold. Colwynâ€™s tempest-in-a-teapot brand of local politics will not win Broach many votes in the rest of the district, which has been represented by Williams and by his father Anthony Hardy Williams since 1983.
Among State House races, itâ€™s a bloodbath in North Centralâ€™s 197th Dist., where freshman State Rep. J.P. Miranda (D-N. Phila.) has been indicted by District Attorney Seth Williams for illicitly hiring his sister through a ghost employee. Miranda has no name recognition or major support; this should be a ward leadersâ€™ election. And the Democratic Party has endorsed Leslie Acosta, daughter of former State Rep. Ralph Acosta.
But four other candidates have filed. 7th Dist. Councilwoman Maria QuiÃ±ones SÃ¡nchez is backing Danilo Burgos; former State Rep. Ben Ramos is back for another go and has some name recognition; and they are joined by another Latino, Juan RodrÃguez. In this district, which is 40% African American, Edward Lloyd, Jr., a small-time political activist, may have a decent shot if the other four carve up the Hispanic vote.
To spice the struggle, Acostaâ€™s petitions have been challenged.
Itâ€™s a four-way struggle in another North Central district, the 181st, where veteran State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas (D-N. Phila.) is eyeing the petitions of Kenneth Williams-Medley, a Mastery Charter Schools employee; Kenneth Walker, Jr., a resident advisor at Girard College; and Emily Rodriguez, a housing activist with the Womenâ€™s Community Land Trust. Thomas has served in office since 1988 and still has some treads left on him; look for these newcomers to be rehearsing for future ambitions.
years. Dennis Kilderry should have support from Heat & Frost Insulators Local 14, of which he is sergeant at arms. Arlen Larue, who works for State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown (D-W. Phila.), can tap Prince Hall Masons for support. DeFinisâ€™ and Larueâ€™s petitions have been challenged.
Brown herself is facing two challengers in the 190th Dist. Wanda Logan, who opposed the incumbent in 2012, is back for another round. Logan has connections in the cityâ€™s nonprofit world through the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition. Isaac Patterson V has been active in charter schools and the national Parent Teachers Association. Logan will hammer Lowery Brown for sponsoring a bill to end teacher seniority, a move that angered teachers unions. This could strengthen Logan’s hand in the rematch.
The new 179th is an awkward district to represent, combining portions of Frankford and Olney. Its representation has been unstable in recent years. Freshman State Rep. James Clay (D-Kensington) was promoted by Ward Leader Danny Savage and knocked off young incumbent Tony Payton after the latter faked his nominating petitions. But Savage has his hands full this year (see above). Going after Clay are Jason Dawkins, a member of Team SÃ¡nchez, with significant labor backing, and David Hall. Hallâ€™s petitions have been challenged.
The race in the 194th Dist. has already drawn attention, where State Rep. Pam DeLissio (D-Northwest) is facing a Roxborough insurgent, David Henderson. Dave has the endorsement of 21st Ward Leader Lou Agre and the support of 21st Ward activist Dan Pellicciotti.
DeLissio, whose district twists across two counties, seems to have never understood the need to cement relations with city ward leadership. Now she must face a challenge to her residency. If she loses, she goes off the ballot.
Petitioners Nick DiPiero and Sean Stevens, who had planned to run against her, filed with evidence indicating her 366 Cinnaminson Street address, a condominium, is not her primary address. The petitioners claim she does not reside there but at 304 Saddle Ridge Court in Harrisburg,
Evidence: she filed a Homestead Declaration in Dauphin Co for a property there. Since 2009, she has obtained and taken the tax benefit from â€œthe Waverly Woods Condominium as her primary residence.â€ Her application for Homestead Declaration declared she does not â€œclaim anywhere else as primary residence.â€ On top of that, she lists her Harrisburg property as her home on her driverâ€™s license, usually considered essential in a defense when proving residency.
An incumbent faces a tough challenge in the 202nd Dist., where State Rep. Mark Cohen (D-Northeast) is facing a well-funded, well-known, aggressive community activist Jared Solomon in a district much of which is new to Cohen.
Also to be watched is the 198th Dist., where State Rep. Rosita Youngblood (D-Northwest) is being tested by Germantownâ€™s forceful 12th Ward Leader John Connelly. Connellyâ€™s petitions have been challenged.
In Center Cityâ€™s 182nd Dist., Babette Josephs is testing the man who turfed her out of office in the 2012 primary, State Rep. Brian Sims (D-S. Phila.). Josephs is well known in her old district and if Sims has missed any political bases during his freshman term, she can make him pay for it.
In the 188th Dist., State Rep. Jim Roebuck (D-W. Phila.) should enjoy united party backing against real-estate investor Algernong Allen this time. Allen is a popular grass-roots leader in the Cedar Park community and wields connections in Kingsessing as well, so he may make a fair showing but is unlikely to win.
The SÃ¡nchez Effect will get a clear test in the 180th, where State Rep. Angel Cruz (D-Kensington) is confronted with another staffer of Councilwoman QuiÃ±ones SÃ¡nchez, Quetcy Lozada, in a stark face-off where the only obvious issue is fealty to the Councilwoman. Cruz has survived challenges before.
Olney attorney Lamont Thomas runs for office. He tackled 9th Dist. Councilwoman Marian Tasco twice and lost. He tackled Sen. Washington and lost. He tackled State Rep. Dwight Evans and lost. Now heâ€™s tackling State Rep. Stephen Kinsey (D-Northwest), a diligent freshman who knows his way around Harrisburg.
Along the Delaware River in the 175th Dist., attorney Sean Sullivan is looking at an uphill climb against State Rep. Mike Oâ€™Brien (D-Kensington). Bobby Curry is no threat to State Rep. Cherelle Parker (D-Northwest) in the 200th.
Military vet Jeffrey Voice may play on his name at the “vice of the people”, but his challenge to State Rep. Kevin Boyle (D-Northeast) in the 172nd will upend easily since Kevin has worked his district and is well known to his constituents. His petitions have been challenged.
State Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Northeast) was running unopposed — sort of. However, he is simultaneously pursuing a congressional seat, in which race he has three smart opponents.
Out of nowhere, a voter charges 833 of Boyle’s 1,062 State Rep petition signatures are invalid., which would blow him off the ballot. That would force Boyle to run a write-in campaign, which he would surely win — but would drain resources from his race for the State Senate.