Convicted legislator Acosta gets her wish for special election candidate to replace her

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State Rep. Leslie Acosta.

Former State Rep. Leslie Acosta, who resigned after pleading guilty to a felony in federal court, appears to have successfully lobbied for her pick in a special election to fill her 197th District seat.

Freddie Ramirez, president of Pan American Mental Health Clinics, was selected Wednesday in a split vote by Democratic committee members in the district to be their party's candidate in the March 21 special election.

U.S. Rep. Robert Brady, chairman of the Democratic City Committee, said he supervised the meeting, during which Ramirez, Noelia Diaz, and Lee Lacy made presentations to committee members from 75 voting divisions from six wards.

Brady said Ramirez won support from 41 divisions while Diaz took 24 divisions and Lacy won 10. Ramirez's support came from the 37th, 42nd, and 43rd Wards, while Diaz was supported by the 16th and 19th Wards and Lacy was supported by the 11th and 49th Wards.

Ramirez did not respond to a request for comment.

Acosta, who spoke in favor of Ramirez during an appearance last month on the Spanish language radio station El Zol, showed up after the voting at Democratic City Committee headquarters and did not participate in the meeting, Brady said.

Acosta secretly entered her guilty plea in March on an embezzlement charge from a former job. That plea was revealed by the Inquirer in September.

She ran unopposed in the November general election for her $86,478-per-year post and resisted for months calls from Gov. Wolf, Brady, and other Democratic leaders to resign because she had not been sentenced.

Acosta finally submitted her resignation last month, making it effective Jan. 3, the first day of the new legislative session, when her former colleagues were expected to vote to expel her if she did not resign. The House, in response, tightened ethics rules to make it easier to expel a member convicted of a crime before sentencing in court.

State House Speaker Mike Turzai last week set March 21 for the special election in the district, in a heavily Democratic section of North Philadelphia.

Joe DeFelice, chairman of the Republican City Committee, said his party has selected Lucinda Little, who works in medical research, as its candidate.