The Wrangling Over Leslie Acosta's Replacement Shows Why You Should Run for a Ward Seat

We've been following the drama over state representative/convicted felon Leslie Acosta's inevitable replacement the last few months, and now Max Marin shares a juicy update on the wrangling to replace Acosta in the 197th District.

"In a closed-door meeting in September, ward leaders met with Cruz and Democratic City Committee Chairman Bob Brady to discuss Acosta-gate, according to City & State PA. They agreed to tap Noelia Diaz, a political activist last seen campaigning for Manny Morales’ failed bid to unseat Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez. Acosta could not be reached for comment. But on El Zol, she suggested that, if she is forced to resign, she wants to bequeath the seat to Freddy Ramirez, president of Pan-American Mental Health Services.

She argued that Ramirez was “scandal free.” [State Rep. Angel] Cruz told PW that the ward leaders would not back Ramirez.

“Freddy Ramirez is worse than [Acosta is],” Cruz said. “There’s a huge conflict of interest. He runs a mental health clinic in his district… I have more authority than [her] in the 197 because I represented it for ten years,' referring to the district map before it was gerrymandered into oblivion."

Needless to say, whichever candidate emerges as the preferred choice of this scandal-plagued crew isn't going to be your favorite member of the Philly delegation, but the larger issue is who isn't going to have a meaningful say in this: the voters.

Rep. Acosta just ran for reelection and won, and won't face reelection for another two years. Her Harrisburg colleagues will, in all likelihood, refuse to seat her when members are inaugurated in January, as there will end up being a special election for the 197th. There won't be an open primary for the Democratic nomination in that special election--the ward leaders in this area will choose.

This kind of scenario plays out constantly, and is a very popular way for people to get into state legislative seats. The Democratic City Committee seems to prefer to avoid open primaries whenever possible. 

This is one reason why our ward elections project is so important, and why you should consider running for a committeeperson seat in your neighborhood. If a sizable number of Philly's state and local elected officials are going to continue to be hand-picked by ward leaders, instead of nominated by the voters through open primaries, then a key front in local reform politics has to be about choosing the ward leaders who choose the politicians.

The most important responsibility for people who get elected to ward committee seats is choosing the ward leader at the first reorganization meeting. Is that person going to pick the same kinds of candidates for state Rep and City Council that you would pick? This is the question that matters most of all because the odds are pretty good that your ward leader really will get to make that choice one day.

If you're interested in running for a ward committee see where you live, sign up to get connected with other people working on local politics in your area, or sign up for one of the 10 remaining slots in our ward elections workshop on January 31st. 

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