Voters show disdain for politics as usual

A primary campaign poster for Jewel Williams, a candidate for state representative, outside a polling place at Mediator Lutheran Church on North 28th Street. TOM GRALISH / Staff Photogrpher
A primary campaign poster for Jewel Williams, a candidate for state representative, outside a polling place at Mediator Lutheran Church on North 28th Street. TOM GRALISH / Staff Photogrpher
Posted: April 27, 2012

It was refreshing to see primary voters in two Philadelphia legislative districts say no to politics as usual by rejecting an old-guard Democratic House member and turning away a newcomer who pinned her hopes on being the namesake daughter of the man who had held that office.

The apparent defeat in the 182d District of State Rep. Babette Josephs, 71, not only paves the way for the election of Pennsylvania’s first openly gay state lawmaker, but also served as savvy Center City voters’ rejection of unsavory — not to mention silly — campaign tactics.

A weird Josephs flyer warned that 33-year-old lawyer Brian Sims “says he will work with Harrisburg Republicans.” Horror of horrors, the Josephs camp concluded, Sims’ nod toward bipartisanship would result in disenfranchised minorities, cuts to schools, and “mandatory ultrasounds before abortion.”

Worse yet, Josephs unsuccessfully tried to fool voters with her stump support for breaking the gay-rights barrier in Harrisburg by urging supporters to donate to an openly gay candidate in the Harrisburg area — but not to Sims.

Was this the best a 14-term incumbent known for attentiveness to her district could do? Fortunately, enough of her constituents said it wasn’t good enough.

Meanwhile, voters in North Philadelphia rejected Jewel Williams, 27, who was accused of trying to trick voters into thinking they were reelecting former State Rep. Jewell Williams, who took over as city sheriff this year.

Beyond the extra L in the sheriff’s first name, 197th District voters clearly felt his daughter didn’t measure up in other ways. Rather than risk a bait-and-switch, they wisely chose community organizer J.P. Miranda, 26, who has worked for City Council, Mayor Nutter, and the state Senate.

If more voters scrutinize candidates as closely, it will bode well for shaking up the city’s stale political culture.

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