Philadelphia incumbents mostly beat challengers in state legislative races, with a few upsets

Facing his first serious re-election battle in 25 years, state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams fended off a strong primary challenge from Paul Prescod and secured the Democratic nomination in Pennsylvania’s Senate District 8.

Williams got 56% of the expected vote Wednesday morning when the Associated Press called the race. It was one of the most closely watched state legislative matchups, pitting a veteran Democrat against a freshman candidate backed by the city’s progressive movement in the district that represents South and Southwest Philadelphia, as well as parts of Delaware County.

Williams’ victory echoed a theme of the evening: In the battle between progressives and the Democratic establishment, the winner was the incumbent. In a dozen negative contested races in the Pennsylvania legislature, Philadelphia’s progressive incumbents outclassed their centrist rivals just as easily as party-backed incumbents took on rivals to their left.

All but two incumbents in the disputed Democratic primary for the Philadelphia delegation in Harrisburg appeared poised to win.

Tarik Khan, a former president of the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association who drew attention for delivering vaccines during the pandemic, got at least 53% of the vote over state Rep. Pam DeLissio in the 194th district, which includes parts of northwestern Pennsylvania. Philadelphia and Montgomery County. The Associated Press called the race Wednesday afternoon.

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In a battle between incumbents in Northwest Philadelphia, state Rep. Chris Rabb, who is part of a progressive group in the city’s Harrisburg chapter, won nearly 62% of the expected vote over state Rep. Isabella Fitzgerald. (Rabb has represented House District 200 since 2017, but redistricting earlier this year brought him and his colleague Fitzgerald to the same district.)

Williams won the position in 1998 after his father, Hardy Williams, vacated the position. The younger Williams has made unsuccessful bids for governor and mayor of Philadelphia in the years since.

Prescod, an organizer with the Democratic Socialists of America, left his job as a Philadelphia public school teacher to challenge Williams, pitting his defense of public education against the incumbent’s ties to charter schools.

Prescod’s campaign raised more than $300,000 and garnered the support of numerous unions and progressive groups. But that coalition of support failed to put the 31-year-old upstart within striking distance of the veteran representative.

His defeat deals a heavy blow to the local progressive insurgency that in recent years has won numerous seats against established Democrats in the Pennsylvania legislature. Still, the 13 percentage point margin is the biggest threat Williams has faced in his district to date.

Incumbency also trumped ideology in US Rep. Dwight Evans’ victory over Alexandra Hunt, a 29-year-old public health researcher who ran on a progressive agenda, including the Green New Deal and Medicare for All.

With no backing from local groups, progressive or otherwise, Hunt raised more than $627,000 from thousands of mostly out-of-state donors. your campaign drew a nod from former Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson and gained considerable traction on social media, juggling an OnlyFans account along with discussions of hot-button policy issues like reparations.

Evans, who raised less money and ran a less visible re-election campaign, won by a 4-1 margin.

Other legislative matchups have played out overwhelmingly in favor of incumbent lawmakers, while some vacant seats saw new Democratic candidates almost guaranteed to win in the fall.

With nearly 77% of the expected vote, state Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler appeared to easily brush off a challenge from South Philadelphia real estate agent Michael Giangiordano II in a race that drew numerous ads attacking the two-term incumbent.

Fiedler, who is part of the progressive wing, was not alone in ruling out a more centrist challenger. In West Philadelphia, freshman Rep. Rick Krajewski unseated his Democratic opponent James Wright.

Other ideologically moderate Democrats in the House ended up rejecting their rivals. State Rep. Amen Brown, who has weathered controversies and political clashes with his colleagues, was 4 percentage points ahead of progressive challenger Cass Green in the 190th House District as of Wednesday morning, though he hasn’t declared himself the victor. .

In Northeast Philadelphia, state Rep. Kevin Boyle, who said he struggled with mental health after he was arrested for violating an abuse protection order against his estranged wife last year, rebuffed a challenge from journalist Bob Stewart.

Some seats with outgoing incumbents will also feature new nominees.

In the 173rd district, state Rep. Mike Driscoll declined to run again, instead winning a special election Tuesday for the City Council seat vacated by Bobby Henon, who resigned in January after being convicted of federal charges. of corruption. Driscoll’s chief of staff, Pat Gallagher, defeated district leader Pete McDermott in the Democratic primary.

With a double-digit lead, Anthony Bellman appeared poised to win a three-way Democratic race in District 203, where Fitzgerald vacated a seat after redistricting.

Ben Waxman, a political consultant and former spokesman for District Attorney Larry Krasner, secured the Democratic nomination in the 182nd House district vacated by Brian Sims, securing about 39% of the vote over Deja Lynn Alvaraz and Jonathan Lovitz.

In parts of Kensington and Juniata, residents will see a new state representative in House District 180 for the first time in more than two decades.

Elected in 2001, veteran state representative Ángel Cruz refused to seek re-election and passed the torch to his assistant, José A. Giral, who ran unopposed on Tuesday and faces no rival in November.

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