Democrats win 2 special House elections in Phila.

Tonyelle Cook-Artis votes in West Oak Lane. She won the vacant 200th District Pa. House seat.
Tonyelle Cook-Artis votes in West Oak Lane. She won the vacant 200th District Pa. House seat. (ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 17, 2016

Two Philadelphia Democrats with strong ties to their party's local establishment easily won low-turnout special elections Tuesday to fill a pair of vacant seats in the state House.

Tonyelle Cook-Artis, longtime chief of staff to former State Rep. Cherelle Parker and former aide to then-City Councilwoman Marian B. Tasco, bested Republican Latryse McDowell to win the 200th District seat.

Parker, who won a 2005 special election in the 200th District, which covers Chestnut Hill and Mount Airy, resigned in January to take a seat on City Council.

Lynwood Savage, a safety manager at the Convention Center and a Democratic committeeman in the 34th Ward, defeated Republican Robert David Bedford Jr., a college student, and Leon Williams, a lawyer running as a third-party candidate, in the 192nd District.

That district includes Wynnefield and Overbrook. The 34th Ward's Democratic leader is U.S. Rep. Robert Brady, the party's local chairman.

Former State Rep. Louise Williams Bishop, who held the 192nd District seat for 14 terms, resigned after pleading no contest in December to a misdemeanor charge after she and other legislators were caught on tape accepting cash from a lobbyist in a sting investigation.

In unofficial but nearly complete returns Tuesday, Cook-Artis won roughly four of every five votes cast, while Savage's winning ratio was more than 3-1.

Both districts saw low voter turnout: 9.7 percent in the 200th and 7.25 percent in the 192nd.

Cook-Artis and Savage will complete the two-year terms of their predecessors. Those seats will be up for grabs again in this year's primary and general elections.

The Democrats were heavily favored to win Tuesday because of the parties' strong voter registration majorities. They make up 89 percent of voters in the 192nd District, and 87.5 percent in the 200th.

State House Speaker Mike Turzai, an Allegheny County Republican, set Tuesday as the date for the two special elections, along with one to fill a House vacancy in the 57th District in Westmoreland County, near Pittsburgh. The outcomes won't change the balance of power in the GOP-controlled House.

The April 26 primary is in six weeks, but Turzai thinks "all voters are entitled to representation sooner rather than later," according to his spokesman, Jay Ostrich.

The city commissioners, who oversee elections in Philadelphia, estimated that Tuesday's special elections would cost about $350,000, based on the costs for special elections last year.

brennac@phillynews.com

215-854-5973

@ByChrisBrennan

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