Northeast Times

Honkala’s political horseplay doesn’t bode well for Green Party

Kens­ing­ton's Cheri Honkala has a tough fight ahead if she wants to take out State Rep. Jew­ell Wil­li­ams, who won the Demo­crat­ic nom­in­a­tion for sher­iff in the May primary.

Monday morn­ing was crazy — even be­fore I saw a polit­ic­al can­did­ate rid­ing a horse down Al­legheny Av­en­ue in Kens­ing­ton.

On the agenda was a post-hur­ricane press stunt sched­uled by Cheri Honkala, a Green Party can­did­ate for Philly’s va­cant sher­iff’s of­fice.

This city is widely known as a one-party, Demo­crat­ic town, yet the only thing harder than get­ting elec­ted here as a Re­pub­lic­an might be get­ting elec­ted as an in­de­pend­ent.

While many have com­plained about a dearth of choices that makes it seem like voters are simply choos­ing from the less­er of two evils on Elec­tion Day, out­sider can­did­ates rarely do well in Philly’s vot­ing booths.

There are sev­er­al tan­gible reas­ons for this — not least of which is the ab­so­lute death grip of an en­trenched Demo­crat­ic ma­chine and an apathet­ic vot­ing cul­ture, where pulling the old Don­key lever seems more like a ge­net­ic dis­pos­i­tion than a con­scious de­cision. 

But part of the reas­on in­de­pend­ents like Honkala so rarely make it to of­fice also seems to stem from the can­did­ates them­selves.

This week, I saw some reas­ons why third-party can­did­ates have a hard time break­ing in­to City Hall — they of­ten seem dis­or­gan­ized.

With one horse out of the race already — Green Party can­did­ate for City Com­mis­sion­er, Rich­ie An­ti­puna, dropped out a few weeks ago after learn­ing that he had failed to switch parties back in May — the party saddled Honkala, their lone sur­viv­ing can­did­ate this year, onto a horse for a photo op­por­tun­ity on Monday, Aug. 29.

The prob­lem? For more than an hour after the press con­fer­ence was set to be­gin, Honkala’s reps couldn’t se­cure a steed.

But, ob­tain­ing a horse wasn’t the only prob­lem. With the con­fer­ence set to start at 11 a.m., this re­port­er was joined by a few oth­ers in pre­par­a­tion for Honkala’s ar­rival, simply stand­ing at Kens­ing­ton and Al­legheny.

We waited, chat­ting about the weath­er — it was a beau­ti­ful day — and after about 20 minutes, a con­ver­sion van pulled up and began set­ting up a plat­form, em­blazoned with Honkala’s name and cam­paign slo­gan: “Keep­ing Fam­il­ies in Their Homes.”

We in­tro­duced ourselves and waited as they setup.

No horse, but we were as­sured one was on the way.

As we waited, Honkala sat with the Star for an in­ter­view — we will have full cov­er­age in next week’s pa­per.

But, she had to break off the talks when a po­lice of­ficer stepped over to her cam­paign van to ask her to move along —it was parked in a no-park­ing zone.

By now, it’s been about an hour, and still no horse.

After shoo­ing away the po­lice of­ficer, Honkala hopped in a car and sped away, as­sur­ing us that everything was un­der con­trol.

Again, we waited for the photo op­por­tun­ity, and I chat­ted with Vivek Ananthan, a North­ern Liber­ties res­id­ent, sup­port­er of Honkala, pres­id­ent of the non-profit Vo­lun­teers for In­ter­na­tion­al Solid­ar­ity, and as I would learn, not a huge fan of cap­it­al­ism.

Ananthan faul­ted the Amer­ic­an me­dia for what he sees as cov­er­age de­signed to sup­port the cap­it­al­ist sys­tem.

All of the stor­ies he sees about com­mun­ist China are writ­ten to make that coun­try look fool­ish and mon­strous, while they ac­tu­ally care for their res­id­ents very well, he ex­plained.

I smiled and nod­ded.

“Where was Honkala with that horse?” I thought. 

Then, my edu­ca­tion on China was in­ter­rup­ted by an or­gan­izer for Honkala: The event was moved and we needed to meet the can­did­ate and her horse.

It’s at 11th Street and Al­legheny Av­en­ue in­stead.

I piled in my car with freel­ance pho­to­graph­er Faye Mur­man and Randy Lo­B­asso, who was do­ing a write up for Phil­adelphia Weekly.

The three of us drive through Kens­ing­ton, look­ing for Honkala and her mys­tery mare, while nav­ig­at­ing Al­legheny Av­en­ue — the street snakes off of Wil­li­am Penn’s in­ten­ded grid pat­tern after about 9th Street — and I fi­nally parked the car at 11th and Ontario streets and we de­cided to walk.

I feared it may have been a wild horse chase, but after a short walk, I saw a steed be­ing ten­ded.

In a bare, fenced off, urb­an stable there was one horse with two men gently brush­ing its mane. A play­ful golden re­triev­er rolled around in the dirt as I ap­proached.

“We’re look­ing for Cheri Honkala,” I said.

“She was here. She left,” they replied.

“Oh, ok.”

As in­trep­id re­port­ers, we began look­ing through our phones and hand­held whatevers to find a num­ber for her of­fice when Lo­B­asso got a call from her people.

She was back at Kens­ing­ton and Al­legheny.

Back on the move, we waited for traffic to dis­sip­ate on the re­turn to Al­legheny Av­en­ue when a line of kids ran past the car shout­ing at something on the street.

Then, Honkala rode by.

Bruce Spring­steen’s “Streets of Phil­adelphia” blared from the van fol­low­ing her, and one of her or­gan­izers re­peated her name and cam­paign slo­gan over a mega­phone in Eng­lish and Span­ish.

Nearly two hours after the event had be­gun, can­did­ate Honkala sat com­fort­ably atop a mag­ni­fi­cent brown horse.

A cow­boy hat com­pleted the look as she smiled, waved and trot­ted on by.

It’s a shame that the event was so hec­tic. I think Honkala truly be­lieves in her cam­paign — her de­sire to keep fam­il­ies from los­ing their homes to fore­clos­ure is com­mend­able — and if the event were a little more or­gan­ized, she would have been able to spend time talk­ing about her goals, her reas­ons for run­ning and why she could be the one to chal­lenge the two-party sys­tem.

But, some of that was lost in the race to se­cure the horse.

Re­port­er Hay­den Mit­man can be reached at 215-354-3124 or hmit­man@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at hmitman@bsmphilly.com.

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