POLS ON THE STREET: Will Third Time Be the Charm in the 190th?

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MOVITA JOHNSON-HARRELL was selected by the 190th District Caucus to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of State Rep. Vanessa Brown. Making the announcement were Ward Leaders Bernadette Wyche (24th); Peter Wilson (6th); Johnson-Harrell; Steve Jones (52nd); Willie Jordon (44th); Greg Spearman (60th); Edgar Campbell (4th) and State Sen. Sharif Street with State Rep. Jordan Harris. Photo by Jim Harrity

Maybe they’ve got it right at last.

The 190th Legislative District, which is facing a Mar. 12 special election to replace State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown, now has a full slate – in fact, a four-way race. And miraculously, it seems, one of these four (in a district that registers seven-eighths Democratic) will actually be a Democrat.

The Democratic ward leaders have been diligently searching for a candidate with professional skills to represent their communities of Cobbs Creek, Mill Creek, West Powelton, Parkside, Haddonfield, Wynnefield and East Falls. Outside Wynnefield, most residents are honest bluecollar people with little practice in matters related to lawmaking and public policy.

Initially the ward leaders eyed Roi Ligon, the Philadelphia Safe Schools advocate. But he turned out not to live within the district. They then awarded the actual nomination to attorney Sonte Reavis – only to find out after the fact that he did not live in the district either.

MAYOR JIM KENNEY and Lettie Santarelli were pleased to be among the supporters of the Academy of Music and The Philadelphia Orchestra. Photo by Bonnie Squires

Next, they turned to Darryl Thomas, a well-known businessman in the community. Again, after he accepted the nomination, they were blindsided by the revelation that Thomas is registered to vote in the State of Delaware.

Now it’s Movita Johnson-Harrell, who had been appointed supervisor of victim services at the District Attorney’s Office by DA Larry Krasner. Johnson-Harrell is known for her work in criminal justice. She created the Charles Foundation in honor of her 18-year-old son Charles, who was shot and killed.

Like Thomas, she challenged Lowery Brown in the 2016 primary. There is no question she is willing to run for office.

One never knows; but we bet the 190th District Democratic Caucus worked overtime this time to verify Johnson-Harrell lives where she says she lives.

There will be three other candidates in the special election. The Republicans have nominated Michael Harvey, described as a “security professional.” Pamela K. Williams, pastor at Ark of Refuge Tabernacle, is running on the Working Families Party ticket. And Amen Brown, CEO over the Overbrook-Beacon Community Education Center, is running on behalf of the Amen Brown Party.

MORE THAN 100 people turned out at Yesha Hall in Pt. Breeze for a dramatic launch of Councilman Kenyatta Johnson’s re-election campaign.

Historically, the 190th is a not a district that tends to develop a dominant central leadership. Whoever wins the seat in March should consider themselves lucky if they don’t face a primary challenge in 2020.

We live in an age of political firsts, and the 190th offers plenty of potential for more. If elected, Johnson-Harrell will be the first hijabi (head-covered) Muslim woman in the legislature; Williams will be the first open lesbian; and Harvey will be the first Republican from West Philadelphia in a long time.

Mumia Case Poses Dilemma for DA Krasner

Controversial DA Larry Krasner, who was elected in 2017 on a platform that vigorously sided with criminal defendants and questioned the get-tough tactics of previous decades of prosecutors and police, is now walking an interesting line with regards to one of Philadelphia’s most-notorious convicts, Mumia Abu-Jamal, who shot Police Officer Daniel Faulkner in 1982. Abu-Jamal was at the time an incendiary freelance journalist working at the peak of racial tensions during the city’s civil-rights era.

MAYOR Jim Kenney was among a host of top city leaders who spoke on Johnson’s behalf, along with Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez and half of Johnson’s other colleagues.

Abu-Jamal has always claimed his innocence, protesting that police (led at that time by equally incendiary Chief Joe Rizzo) railroaded him. Abu-Jamal’s articulate radicalism has kept his cause alive in many progressive quarters to this day. And with the rise of Black Lives Matter, suspicion of old police actions can take on new potency.

Now, two separate developments are putting the spotlight on Abu-Jamal.

In December, Common Pleas Court Judge Leon Tucker ruled that one of Abu-Jamal’s appeals had been improperly ruled on by then-Supreme Court Justice Ron Castille because previously, Castille had been district attorney during an earlier appeal by Abu-Jamal.

Meanwhile, Meanwhile, Krasner’s Office has turned up six boxes of files from Abu-Jamal’s case where they had been mislaid in storage. Krasner’s position is that there is no controversial new information in these boxes, but Abu-Jamal’s defenders have seized on the discovery as evidence that more-scandalous materials may yet turn up.

A BEVY of civic leaders gathered at District Attorney Larry Krasner’s Office to announce that a long-standing ordinance requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms within 24 hours will henceforth be enforced with criminal prosecution if necessary. Although the measure is on the books, it has never been an enforcement priority. City Council President Darrell Clarke, C, has been among those calling for enforcement in an effort to cut down on illegal “straw purchasers.” Photo by Wendell Douglas

Krasner filed a motion last week that he’ll challenge Tucker’s order and resist a new appeal for Abu-Jamal.

Where does this leave Krasner? He is now approaching the midpoint of his term. Two years from now, he must decide whether to run again – and others must decide whether to run against him.

Krasner won in 2017 because, in a splintered five-way field where the other four contestants had conventional anti-crime credentials, Krasner ran as the “pro-defense” candidate, winning with a 38% plurality in the Democratic primary.

But suppose, two years hence, the “pro-prosecution” forces unite early behind a single candidate. Things might work out differently in that case.

By tacking to the right on the Abu-Jamal issue, Krasner may win back grudging respect from the City’s police unions; or maybe not. There remains considerable bad blood between the DA and many cops on the street.

On the other hand, Krasner’s allies on the left can be an unforgiving lot. If they define Krasner’s stance on the Abu-Jamal appeal as a betrayal, they may decide to punish him if he seeks re-election – or simply lack the enthusiasm to turn out for him a second time.

COUNCILMAN Bobby Henon, C, took part in a joyous ribbon-cutting at Dorsey Playground in Tacony to celebrate recent improvements, thanks to a grant. City Council incumbents will be seeking public occasions like these to meet their constituents as the spring primary season develops. Henon willbe particularly grateful for their goodwill after this week’s legal difficulties. Photo by Wendell Douglas

A lot will depend on where the opioid crisis stands at that time. If it continues to grow, tough-on-crime sentiment may swell again in the voting public.

Marsy’s Law Boosts Sabatina

A measure introduced by State Sen. John Sabatina, Jr. (D-Northeast), known nationwide as “Marsy’s Law,” will be front and center in the discussion of criminal justice in the Keystone State this year.

It is part of a nationwide campaign to codify criminal victims’ rights – in this case, in the Pennsylvania Constitution. Sabatina’s bill passed unanimously in the General Assembly last year but must be passed again in 2019 before it can be placed on the ballot for voters to approve.

The amendment would mandate enforceable rights of victims, including notice of hearings and other proceedings, protection from the accused, notice of release or escape, full and timely restitution, proceedings free from delays and with prompt conclusion, the ability to confer with the government’s attorney and information on all of these rights.

WARD LEADER Daphne Goggins celebrated her birthday at Nix Nix in North Central by announcing her candidacy for mayor on the GOP ticket, joined by a host of enthusiasts. Photo by Wendell Douglas

While it does not necessarily take away rights from the rights of defendants, the Marsy’s Law package does shift the focus in criminal policy. Many victims and their families have, like Movita Johnson-Harrell (see above), long complained that they “felt like the murderers had more rights than I did.”

In any event, the progress of Sabatina’s legislation will earn him substantial street cred around the city and state. Observers will be interested to see what he does with it.

How to Sue #MeToo

State Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) has come under the gun of the #MeToo movement in the last year, facing allegations (some undeniable) of sexually inappropriate behavior with some women. The degree of the seriousness of these charges, however, varies from case to case. The senator has apologized for some misbehavior, denied others.

STATE REP. Elizabeth Fiedler’s Health Fair at E. Passyunk Rec Center took an expansive view of health concerns. Fiedler stood with members of 350 Philadelphia, L-R, Joyce Crocker, Ann Dixon and Jeanne McFarland, a group that is pressing to reduce fossil-fuel use – starting with SEPTA. Photos by Wendell Douglas

In a novel twist to this nationwide story line, Leach has now sued a women who accused him of inducing her to perform oral sex on him three decades ago, when she was a 17-year-old and Leach was an attorney representing her mother.

Philadelphia enters into the story because Leach is also suing a 27th Ward Democratic Committeewoman, Gwen Snyder, for relaying the story of Leach’s accuser.

Snyder, a seasoned labor activist, experienced an unwanted approach by a fellow Democrat at the 2016 National Convention and fought a long, ultimately unsuccessful campaign for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party to discipline the accused. She has since grown active in the larger #MeToo movement.

Meanwhile, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale asked Leach to resign, saying, “The serious and shocking allegations against him need to be thoroughly investigated. In the meantime, he has no business serving in the Senate, much less serving on the Judiciary Committee that could weigh in on statute-of-limitations issues.

“I find it disgusting that he filed a defamation lawsuit against his accuser. I will continue to stand by brave victims who have the courage to speak out and ask for justice.”

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