North Philly Democrat knocked off ballot for special election

A Commonwealth Court judge has knocked the Democratic candidate for a North Philadelphia state house seat off the ballot, paving the way for the Republican party to win a special election in an overwhelmingly Democratic district.

Republican lawyers argued that the Democrat, Frederick Ramirez, lives in Bristol, Bucks County, not the Philadelphia district. Judge Anne Covey agreed and booted Ramirez from the ballot, leaving Republican Lucinda Little as the only candidate remaining in the March 21st special election in the 197th house district.

City Republican party Chairman Joe DeFelice said in an interview that Democrats have in effect earned their humiliation on this one. He noted that the last two Democrats to represent the district pleaded guilty to felony corruption charges.

“You’ve heard of the bad news bears? This is the bad news district,” DeFelice said. “You know, with J.P Miranda, then Leslie Acosta, and now this guy — it’s just one thing after another. And it’s been so poorly represented.”

I asked Philadelphia Democratic party chairman, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady if DeFelice had a point.

“That’s bull,” Brady said. “They don’t have no crystal ball. They have people that got in trouble, including their state house speaker.”

That was a reference to former Pennsylvania House Speaker John Perzel, a Philadelphia Republican, who pled guilty to corruption charges.

What now?Covey’s ruling leaves Republican Lucinda Little as the only candidate on the ballot in the district that’s about 85 percent Democratic.

Brady said his attorneys could appeal Covey’s ruling to the state Supreme Court.

“The only problem with the appeal, is that I understand the candidate himself was a horrible witness,” Brady said. “And that’s tough, because he’s on the record with what he said and he can’t take it back.”

Ramirez testified that he has an apartment in Roxborough, sometimes sleeps at his girlfriend’s house in Bristol, and travels a lot to Puerto Rico and Florida. Brady said his attorneys may petition the court to substitute another candidate for Ramirez, or try and run a write-in campaign.

For DeFelice, who’s worked hard to try and revive the Republican party in the city, it’s a chance to capture a third state house seat. For years, State Rep. John Taylor was the city’s only GOP representative in Harrisburg. In 2014 Republican Martina White captured a seat in Northeast Philadelphia and successfully defended it last year.

“Frankly, you know, we’re going to fight,” DeFelice said. “We know we’re strongly, grossly outnumbered, but we’re going to fight and use whatever we can to make this a viable two-party system in this city.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.