Democrat claims write-in victory in North Philly special election, but no one is conceding

Sam Newhouse

A write-in candidate will be headed to Harrisburg to represent North Philadelphia, but it’s still unclear who that will be.

The official winner of Tuesday’s special election for state representative of the 197th House District won’t be determined until Friday, when roughly 92 percent of votes cast for write-in candidates are tallied.

That didn’t stop write-in candidate Emilio Vasquez, a Democrat, from claiming victory in an interview with Newsworks on Tuesday night after polls closed.

“I’m prepared to say I’m confident I’m the winner,” he said.

But Green Party candidate Cheri Honkala, who also ran a write-in campaign, hasn’t conceded, and complained of possible dirty tricks by the Democrats.

“It took me over an hour to vote myself this morning,” Honkala said in a statement. “First, the machines weren’t turned on. I’ve personally seen a Democratic ward leader repeatedly going in and out of the polling place, touching the machines and God knows what else.”

There were at least five write-in candidates in the special election.

The only candidate actually on the ballot was Republican Lucinda Little, who won the endorsement of the Inquirer, but only got about 5 percent, or some 195 votes, compared to 2,396 votes cast for write-in candidates, according to early, unofficial results. She acknowledged to Newsworks that the numbers were not in her favor.

The winning candidates will fill the seat vacated by Leslie Acosta. She was forced to resign in December, after it had been revealed she had pleaded guilty to a federal felony charge related to an embezzlement scheme and failed to disclose it. Acosta’s predecessor J.P. Miranda left office while facing criminal charges.

Vasquez ran as a write-in candidate with the backing of the Democratic Party. The party had nominated Freddy Ramirez for the seat, but he was booted from the ballot for living outside the district.

Green Party candidate Honkala, a longtime anti-poverty activist, didn’t make it on the ballot for failing to fill out the proper paperwork, but ran a door-knocking campaign asking people to write her name in on ballots.

Both Republicans and Honkala supporters complained of dirty tricks, electioneering and various shenanigans around the district on election day.

“It’s the same old from the corrupt Democratic machine in the 197th,” claimed Philly GOP chairman Joseph DeFelice in an election day news release complaining of electioneering. He reported that the GOP spotted fake poll-watcher certificates, and added that election boards illegally distributed campaign literature.

Honkala voiced similar complaints. She said her campaign literature was found on the day of the election to include the legally required disclosures that her campaign paid for the posters. Despite volunteers handwriting that language onto the posters, Philadelphia sheriffs continued removing the posters, she said.

Below, see some of the various complaints posted to social media during the special election.

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