By Deyva Arthur, Green Party of New York State
Cheri Honkala who was running mate in the 2012 presidential election with Jill Stein, sought the office of State Representative of District 197 in the March 21, 2017 special election. The seat was vacated following the recent resignation of former State Representative Leslie Acosta after secretly pleading guilty to a federal felony charge. Honkala plans to contest the election results as riddled with corrupt election practices on the part of the other write-in candidate who won by an unusual landslide.
The only candidate on the ballot, Republican Lucinda Little received under 200 votes, with the other write-in candidate Democrat Emilio Vasquez winning the North Philadelphia seat. The unofficial tally indicates he received 1,970 write-in votes to Honkala’s 282. Honkala has filed a lawsuit to void the election results, joined by Little. There were strong indications voters were influenced in writing Vasquez on the ballot. Reports include voters being handed stamps for Vasquez when they said they were voting for Honkala.
Honkala said, “It took me over an hour to vote myself. First, the machines weren’t turned on. I’ve personally seen a Democratic ward leader repeatedly going in and out of the polling place, touching the machines, and God knows what else.” This election hit a record low voter turnout of only six percent.
This campaign has been a microcosm of dysfunctional and corrupt corporate politics
~ Cheri Honkala
Honkala told Michael Sainato of The Observer, “Democrats literally used their positions of power to illegally coerce and cheat the voices of the people in this district… not to mention the photographs of what appears to be a ballot box at the opponent’s election night party…This campaign has been a microcosm of dysfunctional and corrupt corporate politics. We have seen the local, establishment media try to shut me out despite prominent endorsements and the best ground operation of all the candidates. We have seen political mob bosses call me up and threaten me after I refused to instead just run as a Democrat. I’ve had my tires slashed. Our volunteers have been frisked and had unexplained car damage.”
District 197 has a long reputation of corruption. In addition to Acosta resigning after pleading guilty to money laundering, the previous representative, Democrat Jose Miranda was found guilty of corruption charges. Philadelphia’s District Attorney Seth Williams is also under investigation and last year, Rep. Chaka Fattah, who represented the Philadelphia area in Congress for over 20 years, was convicted and sentenced to prison for racketeering.
Honkala was unable to get on the ballot for the special election due to a ballot form missing the deadline—although up until the deadline she was told all was in order. She said her write-in campaign was going well. A week before the election, Honkala felt confident she could win. Many residents of the North Philadelphia neighborhood had personally told workers of the Green campaign that they would write her name on the ballot.
For nearly thirty years, Honkala has been a committed and tireless crusader on behalf of Philadelphians experiencing homelessness, poverty, and extreme poverty as in District 197 where many struggle to get by on less than $2 a day. In addition to housing rights, Honkala advocates for health care, education, and jobs for all, the repeal of mass incarceration and the war on drugs, protecting immigrants, and examining and addressing environmental factors that lead to asthma and other health issues. She is co-founder of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union and national coordinator of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign.