Dwight Evans has new weapons as he aims again for higher office

DWIGHT EVANS seeks a new political place.

After 34 years in the Legislature during which he ran, then lost, the powerful House Appropriations Committee, after failed runs for lieutenant governor, governor and twice for mayor, he's now running for Congress.

I wonder why.

Why leave one mess in one Capitol for an arguably bigger mess in another?

Especially since Washington runs on seniority, so if he wins, he starts on the bottom rung of the ladder.

Maybe he's bored with Harrisburg. Maybe he wants better pay. Lawmakers' base is $85,339. Congressional salaries are $174,000.

Whatever the reason, his timing is right: He has two new powerful allies and one successful ad-maker.

Evans aggressively backed Tom Wolf for governor and Jim Kenney for mayor and helped deliver votes for both from high-turnout (by comparison) wards in his Northwest Philly base.

Both call him a close adviser. Both offered him jobs in their administrations. He co-chairs Kenney's transition team. Wolf named him to the SEPTA board.

Presumably both will back him, financially and otherwise, for Congress.

Plus he has Saul Shorr, Philly-based national TV guru, of Shorr Johnson Magnus, who's done killer ads for Bob Casey over Rick Santorum, Wolf over Tom Corbett and, famously, President Obama over Mitt Romney.

A pro-Obama PAC ad in 2012, "Stage," was rated among the most effective (and damaging to Romney) of that election cycle.

It focused on Bain Capital, Romney's investment company, and a paper plant it bought in Indiana. It featured a plant employee saying workers were told to build a 30-foot-wide stage from which execs then said they all were fired.

The worker in the ad says, "It was like building my own coffin."

The ad's tagline? "If Mitt Romney wins, the middle class loses." It ran heavy in Ohio, which put Obama over the top.

Shorr made an ad with Evans endorsing Wolf last year. It showed Evans in his district with photos of Ogontz Avenue in the 1980s and now.

"I've spent my life proving you can rebuild a neighborhood block by block," Evans says to the camera. He then calls Wolf "the only Democrat" for governor "who shares my belief in real change."

Now Shorr's making ads for Evans' run against indicted incumbent U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah and (so far) three others in a Democratic primary next April.

Fattah's federal trial on racketeering is scheduled for early May, after the primary, one assumes because the feds just love foolin' with Philly elections.

(Remember that FBI bug in Mayor John Street's office a month before his 2003 re-election bid? Street, never charged with anything, won anyway.)

Fattah claims innocence and so far is supported by the Democratic City Committee chief, fellow U.S. Rep. Bob Brady.

Brady says Fattah is "innocent until proven guilty. He's a friend. I'm supporting Chaka, I guess. There's nothing else I can do."

Hey, it's Philadelphia.

Evans tells me, "I am fully engaged in this campaign," not seeking re-election to the Legislature and running for Congress because "I believe that all cities matter and cities need to be on the [national] agenda."

There are those who believe that Fattah, after 32 years in office, 20 years in Congress, has better name ID than Evans and knows how to win in the 2nd District, which includes West, North and Northwest Philly and parts of Montco.

Also running are state Rep. Brian Sims, Lower Merion Township Commissioner Brian Gordon and 9th Ward leader Dan Muroff, a lawyer in East Mount Airy.

Evans stuck his neck out backing Wolf when the governor was unknown. He bucked city racial politics backing Kenney over Anthony Hardy Williams, with whom he served in the Legislature for more than a quarter-century.

Now both these moves (and Saul Shorr) just might move Evans to a new political place.

Email: baerj@phillynews.com

Blog: ph.ly/BaerGrowls

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