State rep races add fireworks to election day

Tuesday is election day in Pennsylvania, and there’s an unusually large number of competitive contests in state legislative races.

There will be special elections to fill six vacant house seats, and competing for one in North Philadelphia is Milton Street, the colorful former state senator who recently served a prison term for failing to pay taxes.

If Street wins, he’ll only serve until January, because he is not running for the Democratic nomination for the November election. Among the candidates in the primary is Jewel Williams, the daughter of Philadelphia’s sheriff, who just vacated the house seat. He’s also named Jewell Williams, spelled with two “l’s” instead of one. The Jewel with one “l” is battling J.P Miranda, Kenneth Walker and Jamil Ali for the Democratic nomination.

There’s another special election in Northeast Philadelphia to fill a seat all but certain to be eliminated before the 2014 election. That seat was vacated by Republican Dennis O’Brien, who took a seat on Philadelphia City Council.

The state’s Legislative Reapportionment Commission voted to move the 169th district to York County, but that plan was overturned by the State Supreme Court.

So the district will host at least one more election in Northeast Philadelphia. There Republican David Kralle, a former staffer of O’Brien, is facing Democrat Ed Neilson, formerly political director of the electrician’s union Local 98.

And in Montgomery County, Democrat Madeleine Dean and Republican Nick Mattiacci are battling for the seat vacated by Josh Shapiro, who is now a county commissioner.

There are also some cases where veteran Democratic legislators in Philadelphia are being challenged in party primaries.

Democrat Mark Cohen of Olney is a 38-year incumbent in the legislature, now challenged by Haitian American activist Numa St. Louis.

“Most people in the area don’t know who their representative is,” St. Louis said in an interview. And that’s because Mr. Cohen has not been visible, not been responsive.”

St. Louis has said Cohen has tried to muscle him out of the race. Cohen says that’s wrong.

“I’m not trying to intimidate anybody,” Cohen said. “He’s got a right to run, he’s got a right to lose. And I think I’m going to win overwhelmingly. I think he’ll be very lucky to get 20 percent of the vote.”

In West Philadelphia, long time Democratic incumbent James Roebuck is challenged by 27-year old Fatimah Muhammad, who’s campaign has been generously assisted by a pro-school voucher political committee with ties to State Senator Anthony Williams. Teachers unions back Roebuck.

Finally, veteran center city legislator Babette Josephs faces a spirited challenge from Brian Sims, a lawyer who recently stepped down from the board of the gay rights group Equality Pennsylvania.

 

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