After eleventh-hour candidate withdrawal, Philadelphia Democrats filed a last-minute nomination petition for their pick in the special election for the 190th District in the state House of Representatives, a seat vacated by disgraced Democrat Vanessa Lowery Brown.
Democrats nominated Movita Johnson-Harrell, the former supervisor of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Victim/Witness Services Unit, to compete in the March 12 special election, a spokeswoman with the state Department of State confirmed Tuesday. If elected, Johnson-Harrell would become the first Muslim woman elected to the state House.
Her nomination came days after Democrat's initial nominee, Darryl Thomas, withdrew his nomination because "he had a residency problem," said Bob Brady, the former congressman who is chairman of the Philadelphia Democratic City Committee.
That left Democrats until Tuesday to file a substituted nomination certificate.
Also on the ballot will be Republican Michael Harvey, Amen Brown of the Amen Brown Party and Pamela K. Williams of the Working Families Party, according to the candidate list posted on the Department of State’s website.
Due to the timing of Lowery Brown’s resignation, Democratic and Republican ward leaders in the district were tasked with nominating candidates.
Johnson-Harrell did not respond to multiple calls and texts seeking comment. On Sunday she posted on her Facebook page that she received the nomination.
“I embrace the opportunity to unite the 190th while working to ensure our communities are safe, our children are educated and we have community re-investment to improve the quality of life for all constituents of the district!” Johnson-Harrell wrote on her Facebook page.
A community and anti-gun violence advocate, Johnson-Harrell worked at the district attorney's office since January 2018. A spokesman for the district attorney’s office said she resigned from the position on Friday.
Johnson-Harrell founded the CHARLES Foundation after her son, Charles Johnson, was killed due to mistaken identity in 2011.
Johnson-Harrell previously filed for bankruptcy and had a summary offense against her, Brady said. But that those issues wouldn’t prevent her from holding office, if she wins, he noted.
When asked if those issues would pose a threat to Johnson-Harrell’s candidacy during the election, Brady said, “No, I don’t think so.”
Harvey, a 22-year Navy veteran, now serves in the Air Force Reserve, is a security professional and is an insurance agent. He was born and raised in West Philadelphia, and has three children with his wife.
Harvey said he’s campaigning on the planks of bringing positive economic, educational, and public safety changes to the district that includes most of Fairmount Park.
“It’s an opportunity for me to step up and present some ideas and concepts and work toward improving West Philadelphia,” Harvey said. “We see a lot of changes going on and I want to extend those changes to the residential areas.”
Lowery Brown won re-election in November but resigned last month following her conviction on corruption charges for taking bribes. The seat became vacant before newly elected state lawmakers were sworn in and the new legislative session began this month.
Voter turnout in special elections — especially those that don’t coincide with primaries or a general election — is typically abysmal, so the candidates will compete for a small number of dedicated and passionate voters.
“There’s nothing else going on as far as other elections to make voters more aware an election is coming, so it’s generally a low turnout to begin with and since it’s just a stand-alone election, it should be extremely low,” said Chris Vogler, vice chairman and executive director of the Philadelphia Republican City Committee, who didn’t expect turnout to break 15 percent.
Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a wide margin in the district and city. Democrat Lowery Brown held the seat for the past decade and easily won the November election with more than 99 percent of the vote before resigning.
The winner of the March special election will serve out the remainder of Lowery Brown’s two-year term that concludes at the end of 2020, when all House legislators will be up for election again.
The 190th District rests entirely within Philadelphia and is made up of the neighborhoods of Belmont, Carroll Park, Cathedral Park, Mill Creek, Haddington, East Parkside, West Powelton, Allegheny West and Lehigh West.
Democrats chipped away at Republican majorities in the state House and Senate in the November midterms. They netted 11 seats in the House and five in the Senate, leaving the GOP majorities at 110-91 with two vacancies in the House and 29-21 in the Senate in 2019.
This story will be updated. Check back with phillytrib.com.