PA-2: Possible Replacements for Rep. Chaka Fattah
Congressman Chaka Fattah was indicted on 29 criminal counts today.
While not surprising, this news potentially opens up a brand new contest in Philly politics.
Of course, Rep. Fattah has not been tried yet and it appears he won’t resign (Holly Otterbein of Citified explains how the timeline will affect the process). Nonetheless, the case against him is quite imposing. It is also possible that one of the people listed below, or someone else, decides to run against Fattah in the 2016 Democratic primary.
Unfortunately for Republicans, this seat is rated D+38. That makes it the third-most Democratic district in the country. In fact, a Republican hasn’t represented the 2nd district since Harry S Truman was President.
The following are our best guesses at potential candidates:
The Big Names
Michael Nutter: The Mayor of Philadelphia only has a few months left in his term and could seek Fattah’s seat as the next step of his political career. After all, Nutter is still only 58 and has already beaten Fattah once. It would be difficult, though, to go from executive of the country’s fifth-largest city to a back-bench legislator in the minority party. Plus the Mayor’s popularity is not exactly stellar, he was booed when President Obama came to campaign in Philly last November. All in all, Nutter will likely pass.
Seth Williams: Philadelphia’s District Attorney has made a name for himself prosecuting the now infamous sting operation that AG Kane passed on. He is always mentioned as a guy seeking higher office but most of his avenues are closed (Governor, both Senate seats). He could choose to run in the Democratic primary for Attorney General next year against Kane but Montco Commissioner Josh Shapiro is seen as a real contender in that race. So might Seth turn to D.C.? Only if he really wants to move up and/or has legislative ambitions. In Philadelphia, officials have to resign their office if they want to run for another. Given that reality, he will probably stay where he is and bide his time.
Dwight Evans: In the last thirty years, the State Representative has run for Lt. Governor, Governor, and Mayor twice. Therefore, it’s worth pondering whether he’ll try to make another leap. All of those offices, though, were executive positions. Evans may not want to give up his seniority in Harrisburg just to become a congressional back-bencher. Additionally, State Rep. Evans was an early supporter of both Governor Wolf and Philly Democratic Mayoral nominee Jim Kenney. With such powerful allies, it doesn’t make sense to leave.
Vincent Hughes: In 1994, Hughes replace Fattah in the State Senate. Could history repeat itself? Hughes has steadily risen through the ranks in Harrisburg, though, becoming the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee. Still, he floated his name out there when Democrats were looking for an alternative to Joe Sestak. The State Senator is married to actress Sheryl Lee Ralph and may be more attracted to the brighter spotlight in D.C. as compared to Harrisburg.
The Fresh Face
Doug Oliver: Oftentimes during crowded primaries there are “two winners”, the actual winner and the little-known candidate that makes a great impression. For example, Katie McGinty accomplished this in last year’s Governor’s race and is now preparing a run for Senate. Doug Oliver took that prize during this May’s mayoral primary. Furthermore, at just 40 years old Oliver could serve in Congress for decades and would have the opportunity to make a lasting impact. The major question will be whether he’ll rise to the occasion. It’s easy to run a race you won’t win, it is much harder to take the next step and grab victory when it’s within your grasp.
The Long Shot
Brian Sims: The first openly gay candidate elected to the legislature, State Rep. Sims is a star among progressive Democrats. At 36, he has a long career ahead of him and a chance to serve in Congress would be incredibly tempting. Sims, however, faces a major barrier. Fattah is the only non-white member of the PA congressional delegation and the Second District is over 61% black. Therefore, any replacement would pretty much have to be black as well. While Sims could have a bright future ahead, this might not be the right contest for him.