After 29 years, is Fumo ripe for defeat?

State Sen. Vince Fumo's pending federal corruption trial might not be his only worry in the coming months.

The powerful South Philly politician - scheduled to go on trial in February - may face opposition when he runs for re-election next spring.

Several people appear interested in challenging Fumo in the Democratic primary, among them progressive activist Anne Dicker.

So could the criminal trial weaken Fumo enough that a challenger would have a shot?

"Is he vulnerable?" asked political consultant Larry Ceisler.

"Well, there are certainly points of attack. But probably politically within his district, I think he would still be very formidable."

According to a source close to the Fumo camp, a recent poll shows a large number of residents in his district do not view him favorably since the indictment.

Still, the official line is that Fumo is confident he can retain his office of 29 years.

"Senator Fumo is going to have all the resources he needs to compete," said Fumo media consultant Ken Snyder.

"He hasn't slowed down a bit. If anything, he has a fresh burning fire in his belly.

"One day the district's residents will take a hit when a new, fresh senator comes in without the clout or know-how, but it won't be next year."

A likely opponent is Dicker, a vocal member of the anti-casino movement who ran for an open state House seat a year ago and placed second in a three-person field.

"She's probably the perfect candidate to run against the senator," said Ceisler.

"She's a self-styled populist progressive. She's positioned herself as being all about reform.

"She's a woman. It would offer a stark contest."

Insiders say Dicker was seriously considering a run, but she said she wasn't ready to discuss the possibility.

"I do think Vince Fumo isn't a good representative and does need to be replaced," Dicker said.

Vern Anastasio, former Redevelopment Authority attorney, who challenged Councilman Frank DiCicco in the spring primary election but lost, also did not rule out a bid.

"I have no comment on that now," Anastasio said.

"I was very pleased on how we did in the primary. It was a great first crack into elected political life. What's next for me right now is between me and my wife."

Another name often bandied about as a possible contender is union leader John Dougherty, a longtime rival of Fumo's.

Spokesman Frank Keel said Dougherty would consider running only if Fumo were not in the race.

"It is certainly something that is of interest and in the realm of possibility, but nothing is in the works right now in terms of forming a campaign or fundraising," Keel said.

Keel said that it was also too early for Dougherty to consider supporting another candidate opposing Fumo.

One thing that could affect such a challenge is the date of the primary.

The state House has approved a bill to move next year's primary from April to Feb. 12, to give the state more impact in the presidential primary election.

It is not clear if the bill will make it through the Senate.

But Ceisler said an earlier primary date could help Fumo.

"Even with all of Senator Fumo's problems, an early primary in February will work to his advantage," Ceisler said, adding that it would work to the advantage of all incumbents because it allows less time for opponents to mount a challenge.

For the time being, Fumo's government spokesman, Gary Tuma, stressed that Fumo has other priorities besides his re-election campaign.

"For the past few months he has really been focused on his job in Harrisburg," Tuma said.

"In the fall he intends to be working on the governor's environmental plan." *