Criminal Charges No Deterrent to Competitive Races for PA House, Senate

Will prosecution, bad headlines hurt these incumbents' chances of returning to Harrisburg?

If you want to kick the bastards out of office, now’s probably as good a chance as any.

Tuesday’s primary election features 13 contest primaries in Philadelphia for state senate and state representative offices. All of the contest primaries are in Democratic races — which makes sense, since this is such a heavily Democratic town. What that means, practically, is that you’ll want to vote Tuesday to have any chance of deciding who your state-level representative will be.

Those contest primaries include some — but not all — elected state officials from the area who have made the news lately thanks to brushes with the law:

• Pennsylvania Senate District 4 has been represented by State Sen. LeAnna Washington since 2005. She was charged in March with misusing her state office staff to do campaign work even though she knew it was against the law.

She is being challenged by Brian Gralnick, a former Department of Aging official with experience leading non-profit organizations; and Arthur Haywood III, a Cheltenham Township commissioner whose website isn’t working is working just fine.

The Inquirer reports: “The Philadelphia City Democratic Committee is standing behind Washington, as are many of her colleagues in the Senate Democratic Caucus. But two of the seven Philadelphia wards have split off to endorse her opponents, the Ninth Ward backing Gralnick and the 10th backing Haywood.” The Inky’s editorial page backs Haywood.

• State Representative District 197 in North Philly is represented by Jose P. Miranda, who was charged in January with inventing a “ghost employee” in his office as a way of funneling state taxpayer dollars to his sister.

He is being challenged by  Danilo Burgos,  Ben Ramos, and Leslie Acosta. Burgos has the backing of the Latino Empowerment Alliance of the Delaware Valley, an organization through which Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez is trying to flex her political muscles. Ramos is a longtime ally of Ed Rendell, having served as Deputy Mayor under Rendell and Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth when Rendell was governor. Acosta is adjunct professor at Esperanza College of Eastern University with a professional history in social work.

• Only one of the state reps named publicly in Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s abandoned sting — State. Rep. Vanessa Brown, in the 190th District — faces a primary challenge. Her opponents are Wanda Logan and Isaac Patterson.

Three other state reps named in the probe — State Rep. Ronald G. Waters, State Rep. Michelle Brownlee, and State Rep. Louise Bishop — face no primary challengers.

Other races of note

Probably the most notable competitive state primary in Philadelphia — at least, not involving any public allegations of lawbreaking — is in State Senate District 2, where Christina Tartaglione has held office since 1995. She faces two Democratic challengers this year: Thomas Sanchez, husband to the councilwoman; and Danny Savage, a former city councilman. The Inky’s editorial page backs Sanchez.

There are other competitive primaries in Philadelphia on Tuesday. The incumbent will be marked with an asterisk. Unsure what district you live in? The Committee of Seventy’s Online Citizens Guide can help:

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