Republicans and Green Party to judge: Hold a new 197th District election

Cheri Honkala (left), the Green Party nominee, and Lucinda Little, the GOP nominee for the 197th District, hold a news conference outside federal court in Philadelphia to announce they are suing to overturn the March 21 special election results.

Two losing candidates on Thursday asked a federal judge to throw out the results of the controversial March 21 special election for the 197th Pennsylvania House District and order a new election, alleging the Democratic Party and its candidate engaged in illegal electioneering.

The lawsuit from Republican nominee Lucinda Little and Green Party nominee Cheri Honkala was filed one day after Democrat Emilio Vazquez was sworn into office.

The 29-page suit is a litany of complaints about shady tactics in the North Philadelphia district.  The two candidates, along with the city and state Republican Parties and the state Green Party, are suing Vazquez, Philadelphia’s Democratic City Committee, and the Board of City Commissioners and Department of State, which oversaw the election.

Vazquez, in his new office in Harrisburg on Thursday, shrugged off the legal claims.

“It is what it is,” he said. “They lost. We had a better campaign.”

U.S. Rep. Robert Brady, chairman of the Democratic City Committee, was equally unconcerned.

“I wish them well,” he said of the people and parties who filed the suit. “Good luck.”

Linda Kerns, the Republican City Committee associate counsel and one of the three lawyers who filed the suit, shot back: “Tell Bob Brady I do not need luck. I have the Pennsylvania Election Code on my side.”

The city commissioners and the Department of State declined to comment Thursday.

The suit repeatedly cites allegations that election board workers, “virtually all of whom are registered Democrats,” engaged in or allowed electioneering such as passing out literature in support of Vazquez, allowing his supporters to linger in polling places, and allowing nonvoters to follow voters into polling booths.

Vazquez, like Honkala, ran a write-in campaign after they were kept off the ballot by Commonwealth Court rulings for filing their nomination papers after the deadline.  Little was the only candidate listed on the ballot.  At least four other people also ran write-in campaigns.

“The voters for the special election were told by election board workers and representatives of the Democratic City Committee that they were only allowed to vote for the write-in, [Vazquez], and no other candidate,” the suit claims. “Voters were threatened or intimidated if it was thought they were going to vote for another candidate.”

Vazquez won the election with 73.5 percent of the vote, while Honkala took 10.5 percent, Little received 7.4 percent, and other write-in candidates took a combined 8.6 percent.

The district’s voter registration is 85 percent Democratic, 5 percent Republican, and 10 percent independent and smaller political parties.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office’s Election Fraud Task Force reported receiving “approximately 50 calls” and responding to “several dozen allegations of illegal activity at polling places.”  It is now investigating, working with the state Attorney General’s Office.

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