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Despite Fattah Indictment, Don’t Expect a Scramble for His Seat (Video)

Fattah was indicted on corruption charges, but hasn't discussed his future. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Fattah was indicted on corruption charges, but hasn't discussed his future. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 2:17 p.m. |  Despite Philadelphia Rep. Chaka Fattah’s indictment on 29 counts of corruption  Wednesday, multiple Pennsylvania Democratic consultants say not to expect a flurry of candidates to announce primary challenges to the long-serving Democrat anytime soon.  

While Fattah gave up his position on the Appropriations Committee in the wake of the indictment, he professed his innocence and said he plans to run for re-election in seat he’s held since 1994.  

But if he is forced out, that would trigger a special election, giving local party leaders the job of selecting their party’s nominee. And candidates who have eyed Fattah’s seat for years are unlikely to anger party leadership by announcing a candidacy out of turn.  

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“The party leadership is going to have a very influential role in who sits in that seat,” said Pennsylvania Democratic consultant Michael Bronstein. “There are a lot of people outside of Philadelphia who will say there’s an opportunity for a primary, and that’s just not necessarily the way things work in Philadelphia.”

Fattah’s 2nd District is the third most-Democratic seat in the House. President Barack Obama won it in 2012 with 90 percent of the vote. The Democratic primary is basically the election for the seat.

A number of Democrats were mentioned as potential candidates if Fattah resigns. And while it’s unclear who would get the nomination, Democratic consultants in Philadelphia agree it will likely be a black lawmaker in this majority-minority district.  

Potential candidates include:

  • Outgoing Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who was term-limited out of his mayorship in 2015.
  • Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, the first black DA in the city.
  • State Sen. Vincent Hughes, a longtime member of the state legislature who had mulled a bid for Senate in the Keystone State in 2016.
  • Philadelphia City Councilwoman Cindy Bass, who was first elected to the role in 2011.
  • Philadelphia City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, who was also elected to the council in 2011.

“I think a lot of people have really deep and strong relationships with the congressman and will let him, to the extent that he can, make his own decisions about his destiny,” Bronstein said.  

Fattah first came to Congress in 1994, when he defeated Rep. Lucien Blackwell in a Democratic primary.  

Three years earlier, he sought to run for the seat in a special election, but the party selected Blackwell as the nominee instead. Fattah ran against Blackwell in that special election on the Consumer Party ticket, but lost.  

In 2014, under investigation for the charges he was ultimately indicted on Wednesday, Fattah won re-election with 88 percent of the vote.  

Tamar Hallerman contributed to this report

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