Fattah vows to stay - but can he survive?

President Barack Obama arrives with Congressman Chaka Fattah (right) at Philadelphia International Airport July 14, 2015. (TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer)

IF CHAKA FATTAH runs for re-election next year, it's a pretty safe bet that he's going to get primaried.

Fellow Democrats ordinarily would be reluctant to rock the boat - the 11-term congressman has long been considered untouchable - but yesterday's racketeering indictment rocked it for them. And the trial could be a long way off.

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, head of the city's Democratic Party, said he began receiving phone calls from people interested in replacing Fattah "five seconds" after the 29-count indictment was announced.

"It's like that old saying, 'The king is dead, long live the king,' " Brady said. "It'll heat up more and more, and you guys will be able to write some more stories."

So, who will step forward?

The people behind Crowdpac, the Silicon Valley startup that is trying to stir up competition in Fattah's 2nd Congressional District, were licking their chops after the Fattah indictment was announced.

This is what they were expecting to happen. The Kickstarter-type website allows voters to pledge money to potential candidates so they can gauge early support without having to dive into the race. The money is only released if the candidate officially announces.

"If they don't like [Fattah], they should pledge to somebody else," said Liz Jaff, Crowdpac's political director. "They're not going to get charged unless that person runs."

Jaff said about $30,000 has been pledged to candidates so far. She declined to break down the distribution of the pledges, but said the top four recipients are: ward leader Daniel Muroff; state Rep. Brian Sims; investment analyst and fundraiser Dan Kessler; and adjunct professor Isaiah Thomas, who ran for City Council in the primary.

Jaff said that after the indictment was announced they started seeing newfound support for state Sen. Vincent Hughes or Mayor Nutter to replace Fattah.

Nutter, who lives in Fattah's district, appeared offended when asked if he'd seek the congressional seat should Fattah leave office.

"He'll make the decision about what he does and how he deals with the federal government," Nutter said.

"I'm not going to speculate on something like that. I think it's inappropriate, and for me it would be disrespectful and rude."

Sims' chief of staff, Mason Lane, said the state representative is concentrating on his job.

"Brian is still focused on helping Governor Wolf pass a budget and fund our schools and get gas drillers to pay their share," Lane said.

Hughes did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.

District Attorney Seth Williams also has been mentioned as a possible candidate. He told the Daily News last month that he loves his job but could be interested in running for Congress, Senate or attorney general. But Williams also said he's "very interested in opening a jazz and cigar bar in Key West." (He wasn't joking.)

Jaff said voters also can suggest new candidates on Crowdpac's site.

"If you don't like who is on the list, nominate someone else and put them up today," Jaff said.

"We're going to do this in real time. You have a choice."

Those who aren't gaining support will be removed.

"If people aren't getting any traction, tough luck," Jaff said.

Republicans will try to mount a challenge, but winning Fattah's district is a tall order: It's one of the most heavily Democratic congressional districts in the nation.

"Hopefully, the people of Philadelphia's 2nd District will learn from the mistake of electing Chaka Fattah and look to new a voice, perhaps even, gasp, a Republican voice when it comes time to elect a successor," said Joe DeFelice, executive director of the Philadelphia Republican Party.

- Staff writer Mensah M. Dean

contributed to this report.


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