Cheri Honkala of the Green Party and Republican Lucinda Little disagree on nearly everything political.
But they do agree on this: They contend that they were deprived of a fair election by the machinations of the Philadelphia Democratic Party.
“At the end of the day, we’re neighbors,” said Little, of Feltonville, of herself and Honkala, a longtime anti-poverty activist based in Kensington, as they stood outside of Philly federal court. “We care about what’s going on in our neighborhood. We both agree our neighborhood is suffering from Democratic control.”
Honkala echoed that message: "When someone abuses you over and over, it's time to leave your abuser."
Both women ran in a March 21 special election for state representative in the 197th District, and both have alleged widespread electioneering and shenanigans by elections staff and Democratic campaigners to help Democrat Emilio Vazquez win the race.
Now they’re filing a federal lawsuit to void the results of the election and hold another vote, even as Vazquez, a former Philadelphia Parking Authority auditor, was sworn into office on Wednesday. They claim the Federal Voting Rights Act, Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Election Codes were violated during the election. The suit was expected to be filed Friday morning.
"Various volunteers, party people, reporters had made allegations of rampant illegalities at the polling places," Philly Republican state Rep. John Taylor previously said of the 197th district's special election. "Any candidate has the right to have a fair election."
The original Democratic candidate, Freddie Ramirez, was booted off the ballot for not living in the district. Honkala was denied a spot on the ballot because her paperwork was turned in late.
Little was the only candidate on the ballot, with Honkala and Vazquez running write-in campaigns, handing out stamps with their names on them for voters to use.
Honkala and Little both claim their voters were harassed by elections and campaign staff, and that stamps with Vazquez’ name on them were handed out inside polling places.
The District Attorney’s Office Election Fraud Task Force was called to some polling places where they reportedly removed Vazquez stamps from inside, according to Honkala and Little's campaigns. However, Little’s campaign manager Ivan Soltero said Wednesday that he saw Vazquez stamps reappear in a polling place around 7:30 p.m. on election night.
“This kind of thing has been going on for a long time,” said Eduardo Gonzalez, a Democrat who lives in the district and came to court to show his support for Honkala and Little’s lawsuit. “Our whole purpose is to make sure we get fair elections.”
Vazquez won with 1,970 write-in votes, while Honkala got 282 write-ins. Little got 198 votes.
The Philadelphia District Attorney's Election Fraud Task Force is investigating the race, as is the state Attorney General's Office.