The 2017 Democratic primary election for district attorney in Philadelphia is still more than seven months away, but two things are already clear.

First, incumbent District Attorney Seth Williams will have at least one challenger - and possibly several - as he seeks a third term in office.

And second, while Williams has the power of incumbency on his side, he may not have the backing of the Democratic City Committee to go with it.

U.S. Rep. Robert Brady, chairman of the Democratic Party in Philadelphia, said he has fielded phone calls from two current judges and one former judge expressing interest in the primary race.

Former federal prosecutor Joe Khan, 41, last week became the first challenger to enter the primary.

And Rich Negrin, 50, who was managing director during Mayor Michael Nutter's administration, is widely expected to launch a campaign for the office soon.

Williams may have to face the primary competition on his own. Brady said he envisions an "open primary," where the party supports no candidate.

That's pretty rare for a party that routinely backs incumbent candidates.

Remember: The Democratic City Committee endorsed then-U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah in February, after he was indicted on federal corruption charges.

Fattah lost the primary election and then was convicted on all counts.

Williams' high-profile problems - a joint FBI-IRS grand jury probe of his personal and political finances and his recent disclosure of $160,500 in previously unreported gifts from 2010 to 2015 - have driven away many party ward leaders and committee members, Brady said.

"As we're talking now, I think it will be hard for him to gain support," Brady told me. "There's a lot of people who don't want to support him."

There is plenty of political chatter about recruiting challengers to take on Williams, who is 49.

One person who called Brady to express interest in the race is former Common Pleas Court Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes, 60, who resigned from the bench in 2011 after 16 years to become CEO of the American Red Cross of Eastern Pennsylvania.

"It is absolutely no secret that I love the law and am passionate about the integrity of our criminal justice system," Hughes said.

"I have been approached by several leaders in our community to ask me to consider a run," she said. "I am in conversations with leaders in our community that I respect to see if I am the best choice for Philadelphia."

Brady said Common Pleas Court Judge Leon Tucker and Municipal Court Judge Teresa Carr Deni also called to express interest in the primary.

Tucker, who won a second 10-year term last year, was ranked earlier this year as first in qualifications for an open seat on the state Supreme Court by an advisory committee set up by Gov. Wolf, according to two people familiar with the process.

Wolf, however, appointed a judge who was supported by the Republican-controlled state Senate.

Tucker, 65, did not respond to requests for comment last week.

Deni is halfway through her fourth six-year term. She will meet the mandatory retirement age of 70 next year unless voters approve a change to the state constitution to raise that age to 75. She also did not respond to requests for comment last week.

Negrin, a former assistant district attorney and now a partner at Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel, last week declined to comment about his anticipated candidacy.

Elections for district attorney often are sleepy affairs, held during a year when there is little on the ballot beside judicial races and the City Controller's Office. But 2017 is shaping up to be a competitive and crowded primary.

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@ByChrisBrennan