High court rules: GOP all alone on 197th ballot

Lucinda Little a Republican, is the only candidate on the ballot for North Philly’s 197th District seat. If she wins, it will be the first time in 50 years that the seat has not been occupied by a Democrat.

It's official: There will be no Democrat on the ballot for the March 21 special election in the state House’s 197th District, where 85 percent of the voters are Democrats.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in a single-sentence order issued Friday afternoon, affirmed Commonwealth Court’s ruling from last week that prevented the state Democratic Party from listing Emilio Vazquez as a replacement candidate.

The Democratic woes began Feb. 23 when the same Commonwealth Court judge ruled that the original candidate, Frederick Ramirez, did not live in the North Philadelphia district and was ineligible to run. That ruling came down after the deadline to replace a candidate.

The Democratic Party appealed, saying the timing of Judge Anne E. Covey’s ruling put it “in an impossible position” of having to pick a replacement candidate while still trying to keep the original candidate on the ballot.

“This is absurd,” the Democrats argued in a legal brief.

Linda Kerns, the Republican City Committee’s associate general counsel, argued that state law allows for a late substitution if a candidate dies or withdraws from a race.

“Nowhere in the tangled course of events leading us to this point did a candidate die or withdraw,” Kerns wrote in her responding legal brief.

This means Lucinda Little, the Republican nominee, will be the lone candidate listed on the ballot.

The Supreme Court last week also shot down an appeal from Green Party nominee Cheri Honkala, who is not listed on the ballot because her nomination papers were submitted one day past the deadline.

The 197th District seat is vacant because State Rep. Leslie Acosta, a Democrat, resigned on Jan. 3 after pleading guilty last year to a federal embezzlement charge. She had replaced State Rep. Jose "J.P." Miranda, another Democrat who left the seat after a felony conviction.

Acosta pushed for Ramirez as her replacement, which set off arguments among ward leaders and elected officials in the neighborhood, known to be politically fractious.

Fifty-three percent of the 64,000 voters in the district, which covers the neighborhoods of Feltonville, Hunting Park, Glenwood, Fairhill, North Square, and Francisville, are Latino. While 85 percent are Democrats, 5 percent are Republicans and 10 percent are independents or belong to smaller political parties.

The Democratic Party has said it will attempt a write-in campaign for Vazquez, who is leader of the 43rd Ward and on leave from a job at the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

Honkala and a handful of other candidates have said they will also run write-in campaigns.