Martina White became the city's second Republican member in the state House on Tuesday night, with a commanding win in a special election for Northeast Philadelphia's 170th District.
Her victory - by a margin of 14 percent with 97 percent of the vote tallied Tuesday night - prompted Republican celebrations and Democratic recriminations. White defeated Democrat Sarah Del Ricci, who was handpicked for the special election by Lt. Gov. Mike Stack III.
White credited the win - the first pickup by the Republicans of an open General Assembly seat in Philadelphia in 25 years - to the hard work of volunteers, including several unions that endorsed her.
"It's an honor to have the level of support we've had," White said. "I know it's a major upset for my opponent and probably the lieutenant governor as well."
U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, who left the 170th District seat in January to take a seat in the U.S. House, issued a statement congratulating White, saying she "clearly was the harder-working candidate."
Boyle and his brother, State Rep. Kevin Boyle, wanted an aide, Seth Kaplan, selected as the Democratic candidate. Stack, a ward leader in the district, pushed for Del Ricci.
"This could have remained a Democratic seat," Boyle said, lamenting that some Democratic ward leaders relying on "personal relationships" to pick a candidate while excluding the views of labor leaders
Del Ricci, 34, lives in Parkwood Manor and founded the Parkwood Therapeutic Riding Center. Her husband, John, is a longtime friend and political ally of Stack's.
White, 26, lives in Somerton and is a financial adviser for Independence Wealth Strategies in Marlton, N.J.
She joins State Rep. John Taylor, the city's Republican chairman, who also represents a district in Northeast Philly, as the city's second GOP member of the General Assembly.
The 170th District has 36,185 registered voters. Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1, a smaller margin of advantage than the 7-1 registration Democrats hold citywide.
Tuesday's race was never expected to have much impact on the control of the state House. Republicans held a strong majority with 119 members. Democrats hold 83 seats.
House Speaker Mike Turzai had the power to call the special election. On Jan. 6 he chose Tuesday for the election, even though the May 19 primary election is just 56 days away.
The state picks up the cost for a special election. The cost for Tuesday's election has not yet been calculated. The state reimbursed the city for $168,558 in costs to hold a special election for a state house seat in 2011.
PENNSYLVANIA STATE ASSEMBLY
(98% of the vote)
Sarah Del Ricci (D) . . . 2,681
Martina White (R) . . . 3,506