Dem pleads guilty to charges related to 197 district special election
Honkala criticizes special election for 197th district as poll worker pleads guilty to not living in the district.
One of the four Democratic workers charged with illegal electioneering in the city’s 43rd ward during a special election for the state House’s 197th District, last year, pleaded guilty in court on Wednesday.
In front of Philadelphia Judge Scott DiClaudio, Calvin Mattox, 52, pleaded guilty to charges that found that he wasn’t qualified to be working the polls that day, as Mattox was not a resident of the ward in which he was working.
In a short proceeding, Mattox was sentenced to one-year of non-reporting probation and he will be prohibited from voting until the year 2022.
Of the three others charged along with Mattox — Dolores Shaw, 61, Thurman George, 57 and Wallace Hill, 60 —Shaw has been sentenced to a diversionary program while George and Hill are set to have court dates in May.
The other election workers were charged with violating the election code by allowing electioneering in polling places, such as letting Democrats pass out campaign literature, and letting people follow voters into the polling booths.
After the sentencing, Cheri Honkala, who was the candidate for the Green party in that special election, said that the sentence doesn’t account for the $100,000 her supporters spent on her campaign.
“They were robbed. The 2,000 people that donated to my campaign were robbed,” she said.
Democratic leader of the 43rd ward, Emilio Vazquez, won the special election to the position of U.S. State Rep., but to Honkala, the entire process has shown problems in the city’s electoral system.
“For me, this was an educational process. Because, I’ve learned that you can just buy elections,” she said.
Vazquez could not immediately be reached for comment.
Vazquez, a Democrat, won a write-in campaign in the March 2017 special election for the position of 197th District state rep, which comes with a salary of $86,478.
The election was unusual in that only Republican candidate Lucinda Little was on the ballot. The previous Democratic nominee was booted from the ballot for not actually living in the district. Vazquez was nominated at the last minute. Green Party candidate and longtime local activist Cheri Honkala, whose nomination papers had been rejected by the state board, ran a tenacious write-in campaign, while Republicans also campaigned hard to grab the district.
Ultimately, Vazquez won with 75 percent of the vote. But Honkala and Little alleged widespread electioneering and illegally aggressive campaign tactics by Democrats, and sued the Philadelphia City Democratic Committee and election officials to have the election reversed. That lawsuit is pending.
Previous state reps. of the 197th district include Leslie Acosta, who pleaded guilty to federal embezzlement charges, but hid the conviction from fellow state Democrats until after she won re-election in 2016, later stepping down January 2017.
Acosta replaced JP Miranda, who lost the 2014 primary to Acosta while facing charges of illegally hiring his sister as his chief of staff to which he later pleaded guilty.
Additional reporting by Sam Newhouse