Skip to content
Politics
Link copied to clipboard

As Fattah vows to stay in office, possible successors emerge

U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah vowed Wednesday to seek a 12th term in office next year, not long after he was indicted on federal charges of racketeering, bank fraud, bribery, money laundering, and other crimes.

Chaka Fattah waits to be introduce during an event at the Philadelphia School District headquarters on Sept. 22, 2014. ( DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer )
Chaka Fattah waits to be introduce during an event at the Philadelphia School District headquarters on Sept. 22, 2014. ( DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer )Read moreDavid Maialetti

U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah vowed Wednesday to seek a 12th term in office next year, not long after he was indicted on federal charges of racketeering, bank fraud, bribery, money laundering, and other crimes.

"The voters have to make that decision, but I will be on the ballot in my district, and I will offer myself, and we'll have to live with the judgment that they make," Fattah said in the Capitol.

Back home in Philadelphia, the subtle scramble for political positioning to possibly succeed Fattah in the Second District was well underway.

U.S. Rep. Robert Brady, chairman of the Democratic Party in Philadelphia, said the three names most frequently floated to replace Fattah are Mayor Nutter, District Attorney Seth Williams, and State Sen. Vincent Hughes.

For now, nobody is asking to be the party pick.

"I would not have that conversation," Brady said. "I would not bury somebody before their time."

Nutter, Williams, and Hughes are likely replacements if Fattah steps down and Gov. Wolf calls a special election, or if Fattah is convicted and forced to resign.

Nutter's second term ends in January. Williams is up for reelection in 2017. Hughes is up for reelection next year.

Nutter on Wednesday declined to say if Fattah should resign, calling that a "very personal decision." He quickly cut off a reporter's question about running for Fattah's seat.

"It is completely inappropriate in this moment at this time to even speculate on something like that," said Nutter, who defeated Fattah in the 2007 Democratic primary for mayor.

Desiree Peterkin-Bell, Nutter's communications director, told Philadelphia magazine in January, "I think he'd be great in Fattah's spot."

Williams said Wednesday that he was "flattered" to be among those mentioned as possible replacements, but stressed that it was premature to predict what comes next for Fattah.

"I love my job, but I'd be willing to listen to leaders and whoever wants to talk to me," Williams said.

Hughes, a longtime Fattah ally, declined to comment. Hughes makes an appearance in Fattah's indictment, identified as "Elected Official C," who helped a former Fattah staffer obtain a duplicate title for a Porsche owned by the congressman's wife, NBC10 news anchor Renee Chenault-Fattah.

Federal prosecutors called that part of a "sham car sale" to conceal an $18,000 bribe from a lobbyist to Fattah. A spokesman for Hughes called the duplicate car-title work "routine constituent service."

State Rep. Brian Sims, a Democrat who lives in Center City, said he had an "interesting day" of hearing from people urging him to run.

State Rep. Madeleine Dean, a Democrat who lives in Abington, said she had been asked to consider moving into the district to seek the seat.

Dan Kessler, a political fund-raiser who serves on the host committee for the Democratic National Convention, which will be held in Philadelphia next July, also said he had been asked to consider running.

Fattah's new political vulnerability may draw challengers in the Democratic primary election for his seat just under nine months from now.

Still, Fattah has exhibited brash confidence in recent months as the federal cloud loomed larger over his head.

The congressman, who last year suggested it was federal investigators and not he who might have "crossed the line," won November's general election with 88 percent of the vote.

Democrats make up 81 percent of the registered voters in the Second District, which covers parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery County, while Republicans are 8.5 percent and independents are 10 percent.

Joe DeFelice, executive director of the Republican Party in Philadelphia, said Fattah should step down. He said the GOP would recruit a strong candidate to seek the seat next year.

While strong at the ballot box, Fattah is fatigued in fund-raising. His latest campaign-finance report showed he had $23,709 in the bank as of June 30 but owed $61,558 in debts.

The bulk of Fattah's campaign account spending - $37,000 in the last three months - was for legal fees. He listed $57,579 in debt for such fees.

215-854-5973@ByChrisBrennan

Inquirer staff writers Jonathan Tamari and Julia Terruso contributed to this article.