March 03, 2017

Pa. Supreme Court keeps Green Party candidate off ballot looking to fill convicted state rep's seat

Cheri Honkala is vowing to continue her write-in campaign after the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania rejected her appeal to appear on a special election ballot that's looking to fill a convicted state representative's seat.

Honkala, a Philadelphia activist who ran as the Green Party vice presidential pick alongside Jill Stein in the 2012 election who is now hoping to represent the 197th District, announced in a news release Friday that she would continue with the campaign despite the obstacles.

“It’s unfair to the voters of the 197th district that I got knocked off the ballot because of a state agency’s carelessness,” Honkala said in a statement. “Regardless, I’m moving forward with an aggressive write-in campaign because this district needs an advocate who knows these communities and has a decades-long record of fighting for poor and working class persons.”

Former State Rep. Leslie Acosta resigned from her position in the 197th – a district that represents Feltonville, Hunting Park, Glenwood, Fairhill, North Square and Francisville – after pleading guilty to a felony charge in 2015.

Honkala's name won't appear on the special election ballot scheduled March 21 because the Green Party filed the necessary paperwork a day late. A Commonwealth Court judge then rejected her petition in another attempt to get her name on the ballot

The state Supreme Court ruled 4-3 Friday to uphold the Commonwealth Court's Feb. 15 decision that Honkala be kept off the ballot.

“This ruling flies in the face of voters’ First Amendment right to freedom of expression and their right to vote,” Honkala's attorney Samuel Stretton said in a statement. “The state of Pennsylvania is ground zero for an election justice movement.”

Freddie Ramirez, the Democratic candidate initially picked to run for the seat, was also kicked off the ballot by a Commonwealth Court judge last week after low water and electric use at the house Ramirez claimed as his residence proved that he didn't actually live there. 

In a Facebook post last week, Acosta targeted the Green Party candidate.

"Residents of the 197th district, this chick, is not only full of malarkey, she is oppressing the same poor people she wants to represent," she said in the post. "Give me a brake!"

A Commonwealth Court judge has also rejected the Democratic Party's request to put Emilio Vazquez, who works at the Philadelphia Parking Authority, on the ballot as its new candidate for the special election, Philly.com reported

An attorney representing the party and Vazquez is said to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.

Republican newcomer Lucinda Little is also running for the seat.