Democrats go to court, trying to get back on the 197th District ballot

Emilio Vazquez is the Democratic leader of the 43rd Ward, which covers parts of Hunting Park and Franklinville.

Emilio Vazquez is not officially a candidate for the state House, but he still has to step aside from his job at the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party on Monday submitted a nomination for Vazquez in the March 21 special election for the state House’s 197th District.

The Pennsylvania Department of State promptly rejected it as past the deadline, which sent the Democrats to Commonwealth Court to try to get Vazquez onto the ballot.

On Thursday, Commonwealth Court Judge Anne E. Covey ruled that the original Democratic nominee, Frederick Ramirez, did not meet the residency requirement to be a candidate in the North Philadelphia district and removed him from the ballot.

Covey’s ruling was issued 16 days after she held a hearing on a legal challenge to Ramirez’s residency. That hearing was held two days after the deadline for candidates to withdraw from the race and for parties to nominate substitute candidates.

Vazquez is the Democratic leader of the 43rd Ward, which covers parts of Hunting Park and Franklinville. His fellow ward leaders from the 197th District selected him as a replacement candidate during a meeting Saturday.

Marty O’Rourke, a PPA spokesman, said Vazquez has been employed by the agency since April 2003 and is paid $58,220 per year as a revenue auditor at the airport parking unit.  

PPA employees are required to resign or take a leave of absence if they become candidates for public office, he said.

Vazquez said he intends to request a leave of absence Tuesday.

He will not be the only candidate seeking a judge’s help to get onto the March 21 ballot.

Green Party nominee Cheri Honkala on Feb. 16 appealed to the state Supreme Court a Commonwealth Court ruling that she was ineligible because her party submitted her nomination one day after the deadline.

For now, Republican nominee Lucinda Little is the only candidate on the ballot in the 197th District, where voter registration is 85 percent Democratic, 5 percent Republican, and 10 percent independent or smaller political parties.

The seat is vacant because State Rep. Leslie Acosta resigned on Jan. 3 after pleading guilty to a felony embezzlement charge last March.