Ward leaders choose short-timer House candidates

And the nominees are . . .

Former State Rep. Harold James and Democratic ward leader Gary Williams are odds-on favorites to become state House members in late April or early May – but their tenures in Harrisburg figure to be short, just six or seven months each.

Each has secured the backing of Democratic ward leaders to run in special elections scheduled for April 24, in heavily-Democratic districts – in James’s case, to finish the term of new City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, and in Williams, to complete the term of city sheriff Jewell Williams (no relation).

But neither of the new candidates is running in the simultaneous primary election to continue into the next legislative term, next January. Gary Williams, 57, a former aide to Councilman Darrell Clarke and state Rep. Michelle Brownlee, was knocked off the primary ballot by a petition challenge, and James, 70, a former policeman who served in the House from 1989 through 2008, signed withdrawal papers last week (though he told the Inquirer he hadn’t made up his mind).

Republican ward leaders have picked Steven Crum, 50, an actor living in Tioga, to run against Williams, and Barbara Hankinson to oppose James. Former state Sen. Milton Street is talking about running on behalf of a new political party, but it’s unclear whether this strategem will pass muster with state election officials.

In a third special election in the Far Northeast, to fill the House seat formerly held by Councilman Denny O’Brien, the Democratic candidate is Ed Neilson, 48, a former political director for the electricians’ union who worked in Gov. Rendell’s administration. The Republican candidate is David Kralle, 25, who’s been working for O’Brien since high school.

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