First Muslim Woman State Rep Elected in Pennsylvania

Movita Johnson-Harrell will make gun violence prevention a top priority in Harrisburg, PA.

Movita Johnson-Harrell made history on March 12 by winning a special election to serve out the remaining period of the state representative term. She won the Pennsylvania special election in the 190th Legislative District with two-thirds of the votes. Johnson-Harrell is a known advocate of gun violence prevention after her son was killed by gun violence in 2011. She was a former interim supervisor attached to Victim Services administered by the District Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia. On March 25 she will be joining two Muslim representatives, Senator Sharif Street and Representative Jason Dawkins, on the legislature.

Johnson-Harrel won 66 percent of votes, with the nearest challenger winning only 20 percent. This victory makes her the maiden Muslim woman to get elected to be a Pennsylvania state representative. She had a hard time during the election process. Johnson-Harrel became the third nominee for the Democrats to succeed in the seat vacated when state Representative Vanessa Lowery-Brown resigned after her bribery conviction. The two other Democratic nominees exited the race after they individually faced tough questions regarding their residency within the district. Johnson-Harrel took advantage of the situation. Incidentally, this was not her first foray into such an election, having lost against Lowery-Brown in the 2016 primaries.

Her campaign platform included many vital issues, starting from education reform and socioeconomic opportunities to gun violence prevention. The latter is her top priority in the city of Harrisburg. Johnson-Harrel reacted to her win on Facebook where she posted “This win is bittersweet. My seat rests on the grave of my son.” She said it is an honor to be the first Muslim woman to serve on the state legislature and promised to protect the communities from gun violence. She closed her post with “ALLAH U AKBAR.”

Johnson-Harrel, originally from West Philly, personally felt the importance of these issues when her son died as a result of a gunshot in 2013. The tragedy pushed her to make the CHARLES Foundation. It is a non-profit carrying the name of her son advocating for gun violence prevention.

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