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Replacing a sullied West Philly state representative sparks Dem infighting | Philly Clout

Water usage and accusations of bribery: Inside the intra-Democratic fight to replace former state Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown in West Philly.

The Democratic nomination for a March 12 special election to fill the two-year term of former state Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown could come down to whether one of the potential candidates, attorney Sonte Reavis, actually lives in this tan and red West Philly rowhouse.
The Democratic nomination for a March 12 special election to fill the two-year term of former state Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown could come down to whether one of the potential candidates, attorney Sonte Reavis, actually lives in this tan and red West Philly rowhouse.Read moreChris Brennan / Staff

Former State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown is gone. But you didn’t think that filling her 190th District seat in West Philadelphia would happen without some serious (alleged) shenanigans, did you?

Democratic leaders of the seven wards that make up the district on Saturday will interview potential nominees and then select one for a March 12 special election to finish Brown’s two-year term. She resigned in December after being convicted on bribery charges.

One contender, lawyer Sonte Reavis, has emerged as a rumored front-runner among about a dozen people who expressed interest. But is he eligible?

Reavis, a one-time staffer for former U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, is registered to vote in the 60th Ward, at the same two-story rowhouse where his mother, the ward’s former chairwoman, is also registered. It’s also the address Reavis is using to appeal a one-year suspension of his driver’s license.

Maybe that’s why a stack of city Water Revenue Bureau bills landed on Clout’s desk this week, showing zero water usage at the Reavis household from December 2016 to December 2018.

We knocked on the door Thursday and a neighbor, who declined to give his name, said nobody lived in the house, though someone does stop by “from time to time.”

Candidates for the state House must live in their districts for one year to be eligible for office. A Commonwealth Court judge in 2017 removed a Democratic nominee from a special election ballot in Philadelphia’s 197th District, concluding he didn’t live in the district because he used very little water at his alleged address.

Greg Spearman, Democratic leader of the 60th Ward, said he hadn’t heard any concerns about residency for Reavis, who did not respond to several requests for comment.

“I’m going to personally look into this,” Spearman said. “I don’t want us to get caught with our pants down."

Further complicating the nomination process, someone sent an anonymous letter to Democratic committee people claiming some of the seven ward leaders engaged in “pure extortion” by asking potential candidates to pay up to $10,000 for support.

Pete Wilson, Democratic leader of the 6th Ward, called that letter “nonsense" and said ward leaders are “trying to do something new and transparent” with the nomination.

“You can tell whoever wrote it is disgruntled and is trying to cause a lot of chaos and confusion among the ward leaders,” Wilson said.

The Democratic nominee stands an excellent chance at winning the $88,610 per-year gig because 87 percent of the district’s registered voters are Democrats.

Casey is not exactly off and running for 2020

About that U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. run for president — it has progressed about as far as you thought it would. Nowhere.

Casey, fresh off another election win, made headlines back in November with a series of conspicuous non-denials about his interest in a 2020 bid for president.

Two months later, Casey’s Senate colleagues are leaping into the pool — making announcements, hiring staff, visiting key states. The Pennsylvanian? He hasn’t even bought a swimsuit.

“I think before anyone decides to do that, there’s probably a couple stages of analysis, and I’m still on step one,” Casey said Tuesday at the Capitol.

Three major Pennsylvania donors who are keeping a close eye on 2020 told Clout they haven’t heard a thing from their home-state senator.

“I certainly like our own senator, Bob Casey, although Bob has not indicated that he is going to make a serious run for anything,” said Stephen Cozen, chairman of Cozen O’Connor and a top Democratic fund-raiser.

Privately, Democratic insiders are dismissive, casting Casey’s dance as an attention grab.

Others say there’s a case for him as a potential vice president. He has, after all, won statewide office six times in a critical swing state, and shows appeal with the white working-class voters other Democrats have struggled with.

But other options also check those boxes (Ohio’s Sherrod Brown? Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar?). Unlike Casey, they have actually made some 2020 moves.

Update: And just like that, a few hours after this column posted, Casey announced that he would not run for president.

It wasn’t me — it was my Twitter account

When 2019 rolled in, State Sen. Daylin Leach took to one of his favorite social media platforms with this New Year’s resolution: work less on self-improvement, more on improving others.

The Montgomery County Democrat’s tweet was widely viewed as a not-so-subtle reference to the #MeToo allegations that continue to hound him more than a year after the Inquirer and Daily News first reported them.

The Twitterverse rolled its collective eye. But this week, it pounced on a remark posted from Leach’s Twitter account in which he appeared to speak of newly elected Sen. Maria Collett (D., Montgomery) “serving” him.

It started when Collett tweeted last week that she was proud to have been named the ranking Democrat on the Senate’s Aging and Youth Committee. Leach’s response: “Well, I’m very old. But I look very young. So you’ll be serving me in everything you do.”

“Sleazy and unprofessional,” one person responded. “Beyond disrespectful,” said another.

Leach says it wasn’t him. He believes he may have been hacked. Or left his computer open. His office is looking into it.

“You’d have to be really stupid to say something like that,” said Leach, who has taken down the tweet. He contacted Collett to explain, and has taken his Twitter account private — an eyebrow-raising move for an elected official who routinely uses social media to weigh in on current events and issues.

For her part, Collett called the tweet “inappropriate” and an “unfortunate distraction.”

She didn’t appear entirely convinced by Leach’s explanation either: His “serving” response had been up for a week before people began noticing.

Said Collett: “If this had been an issue in terms of a breach in the senator’s communications program or plan, I’m surprised that it’s taken this long to discover it.”