Election 2018

Republican Martina White wins, GOP holds onto PA House seat in far Northeast Philly

The firebrand lawmaker secured her third term, despite her district being majority Democrat.

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The Republican party will hold onto its key state House seat in Philadelphia. Incumbent Rep. Martina White won the 170th District in far Northeast Philly by 15-point margin with all but two precincts reporting, according to city election returns.

This marks the third time in a row White defied the district’s 2-to-1 Democratic voter registration edge. The 30-year-old Republican lawmaker trounced Mike Doyle, a realtor and activist who ran with little money and less name recognition. Doyle garnered 42 percent of the vote, according to unofficial election returns.

White was first elected in 2015 after a stunning 14-point victory over Democrat Sarah Del Ricci. She was reelected in 2016 with an 8-point victory over Matt Darragh, a Democrat who ran with local party support. White remains the youngest woman in Pennsylvania House — and come January, she’ll be the only remaining/one of two remaining Republicans from Philly in the General Assembly.

Meanwhile, in the River Wards, the Philly GOP lost its longest-held seat in the 177th District, where incumbent Rep. John Taylor is retiring at the end of the year. His chosen heir, Patty Pat Kozlowski, lost to Democrat Joe Hohenstein, according to unofficial election returns.

White became a divisive lawmaker early in her career by taking a bullish approach to policing and immigration. She championed legislation to shield officers after they’ve been involved in on-duty shootings and simultaneously pushed to hold Philadelphia on the line for millions over Mayor Jim Kenney’s sanctuary city policy. The far Northeast opposes sanctuary policies more so than any other area of the city, per Pew, and in 2016, 48 percent of the district voted for Trump.

Political observers say White has built her clout around her neighbor’s sense of political alienation from the rest of the city. She has earned comparisons to Northeast political legend Frank “Hank” Salvatore, who pushed a succession effort from the rest of the city in the 1980s. White taps into the “ancestral DNA” of the neighborhood, Democrat State Rep. Kevin Boyle told Philly Mag in 2017.

But in her recent campaign against Doyle, White toned down her signature pyrotechnics and focussed on issues with broader appeal — jobs, taxes, schools, quality of life. And despite her popularity within the party, state Republicans didn’t take White’s victory for granted. Last month, the PAGOP sent out an attack mailer against Doyle as a degenerate lawbreaker with pictures of himself getting arrested. Not mentioned in the mailer: the arrests all happened at rallies for various Democratic causes.

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