IT'S HARD to choose what aspect of the case involving former U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah is more amazing: the extent of his crimes or his complete lack of remorse over his actions.
Federal prosecutors went into court last week to ask the judge to give Fattah a sentence ranging from 17 to 22 years, based on the severity of the charges that were the basis of his conviction. Fattah's lawyers were shocked, shocked at that recommendation, saying their client deserved a lower sentence given the many good deeds he has done during his career of public service.
As to Fattah, he has floated serenely over the proceedings - never talking about the charges, other than to say they are untrue and an example of prosecutorial overreach. That may have been an understandable stance before he was convicted. No matter. In Fattahland, there is no judge, no juries, no convictions. There is just the grandeur of his public service.
Fattah's arrogance is a disease that infects virtually the entire Democratic apparatus in Philadelphia. Many of the party's ward leaders and elected officials are steeped in it. Accused of offering a bribe to a committee person? Oh well, no need to break stride over that. Plead guilty to theft of federal money? Just carry on as if it never happened. Get caught taking money from a phony lobbyist in league with state prosecutors? Don't let it get you down - plead so you can keep your pension.
We shouldn't be surprised. This is what happens in a one-party town, especially since it's had a monopoly for 50-plus years. If you are an incumbent who wins re-election with no or token opposition, the seat is yours for life - and maybe for one of your children to inherit.
Clearly, this has to change, but there is no easy path to make that happen. That's why we are always glad to see a few cracks in the façade made by insurgent candidates who win despite the odds. This year, we had at least two.
In the 202nd state House District, centered in Oxford Circle, longtime incumbent Democrat Mark Cohen was defeated by Jared Solomon. Cohen is an example of dynastic politics, which is common in the city. His father, David, was a city councilman; his mother was his father's aide, his brother a former judge.
Solomon ran against Cohen in 2014 and lost by fewer than 200 votes. Solomon, a native of the Northeast, came on strong again, both in terms of financial support and also by knocking on doors. He won with 57 percent of the vote in May's Democratic primary.
As impressive is the victory of Chris Rabb in the Northwest's 200th District. He was running against Rep. Tonyelle Cook-Artis, who was named by ward leaders to replace Rep. Cherelle Parker after she was elected to City Council. Cook-Artis was Parker's chief of staff. This, too, is a common line of succession in Philadelphia.
Cook-Artis took her seat in April, but by then, Rabb had his anti-machine campaign in high gear. It was his volunteers versus the Democratic organization in the Northwest. He defeated Cook-Artis by seven points in a multiple-candidate race.
We wish both new legislators well in Harrisburg as they take their seats. They serve as hopeful examples that with great effort, persistence and smarts, you can make a dent in the machine - and its arrogance.