His voters still love him.
They love him so much, they had him in tears as they got ready to choose his replacement.
Sporting his signature newsboy cap, former State Rep. Ronald Waters strolled up to the Care Pavilion of Walnut Park in West Philadelphia on Tuesday morning to check in with voters and poll workers. The man who in June pleaded guilty in the sting investigation was greeted with much enthusiasm.
"Ron! How you doing?" yelled a man, stretching out his arm in a wave.
Waters was one of six city Democrats ensnared in the corruption probe that was aborted by Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane but resurrected by Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams. The West Philadelphia state representative pleaded guilty June 1 to nine counts of conflict of interest, and was sentenced to 23 months' probation.
His resignation from office was part of the plea deal. That was the case, too, for former State Rep. Michelle Brownlee, 59, who admitted accepting $2,000 wrapped in a napkin from a lobbyist who turned out to be an undercover operative.
Tuesday's special elections in the 191st and 195th Districts were to choose replacements for Waters, who had been in office 16 years, and Brownlee, who had served four. A third special election in the Northeast was to fill an unrelated vacancy.
If there was any sense of outrage over the cash Waters and Brownlee took, it was not evident at the polls Tuesday. Voter turnout was abysmal. And those who did vote were, for the most part, supportive of the two former legislators.
"We don't hold it against him. ... It was very minor," Doris Sanders-Robinson said as she helped direct other 191st District voters to the poll at the Care Pavilion. "We know what he did for the community."
Karen Hairston, a judge of elections at the polling place, chimed in, recalling how she had needed to know how to go about getting a handicapped-parking placard - so she called Waters' office.
"They told me what I needed for the permit and helped me get it," Hairston said.
Other voters, most of them elderly, shared stories of how Waters' office had helped them get housing rebates or deal with their tax issues, the minutiae of constituent services.
"He was an excellent, excellent representative. ... Anyone you ask will say the same thing," Jess Taylor, 81, a poll worker at the Anderson School in Southwest Philadelphia, said. "That was the filthiest sting I've ever seen."
Taylor shrugged off the fact that of six Democrats charged in the sting case, Waters had accepted the most money: $8,750 in nine payments between 2010 and 2012.
"All he had to do was report it," Taylor said.
The sentiment was similar, if not as impassioned, in Brownlee's former district, which stretches across neighborhoods such as Strawberry Mansion, Fairmount, and Powelton.
"You show me one perfect person," said Michael Stewart, a Democratic committeeman working the polling place at a city health center at 20th and Berks Streets. "She got caught, others didn't." Stewart said Brownlee was good at organizing community cleanups.
"My buddy," he called her.
Further south, at 22d and Brown Streets, Robin Downs said she didn't like that Brownlee took money, but wasn't surprised.
"All politicians like to dip and dab," Downs, 61, said, adding she hoped whoever succeeded Brownlee wouldn't follow suit.
Waters, for one, said he was sorry.
"I wasn't trying to hurt anybody," he said of the actions that ended his career in the state House. "I regret it all the time."
In the weeks leading up to the special election, Waters campaigned for Joanna McClinton, the Democratic nominee for his old seat in an overwhelmingly Democratic district that includes a bit of lower Delaware County. He visited senior centers - where, he said, the reaction he received brought him to tears more than once.
A lot of these seniors said, 'I would still vote for you.' ... They had me crying," Waters said, pulling a folded white handkerchief from his back pocket. "I now carry this around with me."
As he made the rounds at the polls, Waters said he did not know what he would do next, except that he would stay involved in the community.
"I don't act like I've gone fishing," he said as his cellphone buzzed with calls. "I'm 65. I still feel I have a lot more to give."