The Lead

Johnson-Harrell replacement to be picked Feb. 25

By: - December 16, 2019 5:57 pm

West Philadelphia voters will go to the polls Feb. 25 for the second time in a year for a special election to replace an incumbent charged with corruption.

They will be replacing former Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell, a Democrat, who represented the district for nine months this year before resigning on Dec. 13. 

She is accused by Attorney General Josh Shapiro of embezzling more than $500,000 from a nonprofit she operated, allegedly spending the money on everything from furs and vacations to private school tuition and her own political campaigns.

Facing embezzlement charges, Pa. Rep. Johnson-Harrell will resign

Johnson-Harrell has pleaded guilty, but still disputes some of the charges, which include theft and perjury.

She was first elected in March, to replace former Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown, also a Democrat. Brown resigned when was found guilty of bribery in Dec. 2018.

According to House Parliamentarian Clancy Myer, who’s logged four decades in the chamber, this will be the first time during his tenure that a special election has been held in the same district twice in one two-year session. 

Special elections are scheduled by House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny. The Philadelphia Tribune reported that Philadelphia Democrats had hoped the special would take place in April, on primary day, citing the high cost of holding a special election.

The Tribune noted that four candidates, including two who had run against Johnson-Harrell in March, already had expressed interest in the seat.

Candidates will be chosen by their respective party, in a private process dictated by party leaders.

It will be the eighth special election to replace a lawmaker who resigned from office, either in scandal or for a different opportunity.

Another three will be scheduled in the future to replace House lawmakers who won local offices in the 2019 municipal elections.

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.