POLS ON THE STREET: Brady Bows out, Districts Blow up

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RECLAIM PHILADELPHIA held a candidates forum recently and had invited everyone who was running for state and congressional seats in the region. State Rep. Jim Roebuck, L, of the 188th, spotted Congressman Bob Brady at the rear of the room. Photo by Bonnie Squires

He’d had enough.

Many factors went into Congressman Bob Brady’s (D-Phila.) decision not to run for office this year. But the deciding moment came as he sat alone in his Washington office Sunday night two weeks ago, far away from all he loved, watching the Eagles defeat the Minnesota Vikings. He was stuck in D.C. to await an urgent House floor vote on Monday that wound up never happening.

“Why am I doing this?” he asked himself.

“I want to spend time with my grandchildren,” he told ward leaders and reporters on Jan. 31 at Democratic City Committee headquarters (the Brady Building).

It may be time better spent than serving as a Democrat on Capitol Hill these days. After 20 years in office, Brady, now 72, decided he would come home fulltime. He spoke with pride of the $15.5 billion in federal funding he had directed to Philadelphia, but it will be someone else’s turn to match him now.

Brady will run for re-election as chair of DCC, which he said he will be better able to serve when he quits commuting between here and Washington.

His House colleague Brendan Boyle (D-Phila.) praised Brady, saying, “Since coming to Congress, I’ve gotten to know Bob well. I value our friendship and working closely together to help the city we both love. Bob is a proud son of Philadelphia. He loves our city and would do anything to help anyone. No one has a bigger heart than Bob.”

Nina Ahmad, who had been preparing to oppose Brady in the May primary, said, “I thank Bob Brady for his service. I intend to take the baton and bring bold progressive change to the 1st Congressional district as well as to the country.

“As a scientist, a woman of color, an immigrant and an activist, I have long felt that I am most able to stand up to Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress. That was as true yesterday as it is today.”

U.S. Supreme Court Lets Pa. Gerrymander Ruling Stand

Another reason for Brady to quit was the State Supreme Court’s ruling that voided all Pennsylvania congressional districts. Who knows where the new 1st District – or any other – will be now?

STATE REP. John Sabatina, Jr., C, was surrounded by members of the Northeast Ward Leaders and the teams at the Harmonia Club in Bridesburg. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Republican legislators had requested the U.S. Supreme Court to stay that order for at least the upcoming primary. But Justice Samuel Alito declined to hear it, as the ruling in Harrisburg depended entirely on state law.

“The officials who run elections in Pennsylvania have assured the court that orderly and efficient elections can be held under a new, constitutional map in time for 2018,” said Mimi McKenzie, legal director of the Public Interest Law Center, which brought the lawsuit on behalf of the League of Women Voters.

The Republican-controlled General Assembly has until tomorrow to produce an alternative congressional map, a chore it has little interest in tackling. Therefore, the State Supreme Court will design one on its own. Until it does so, probably sometime next week, anybody can run for any congressional seat in the state, as long as they don’t mind not knowing where that district is.

There may be more worms in this can. State legislative districts are quite gerrymandered as well and open to a similar legal challenge in time for the 2020 election.

Some lawmakers may decide to bow gracefully to the inevitable by endorsing HB 722 and SB 22, advocated by Fair Districts PA, which would establish a formal mechanism for nonpartisan redistricting. It already has some Republican support.

Fair Districts PA asserted in a statement that of Philadelphia’s 22 state legislators, only four have not endorsed it.

Muroff Boasts Big Cash in Hand

8th Ward Leader Dan Muroff, who is running for the 7th Congressional District, says he raised $421,000 in leads, with $267,000 cash on hand, in the 2017-18 cycle. That may help him locate the new 7th District when it is announced.

Muroff, a former president of Conservation Voters of PA and Ceasefire PA, raised over $114,000 in the fourth quarter of 2017.

He became the first candidate to call for President Donald Trump’s impeachment – a task that would fall to him and his fellow representatives, if he is elected.

“Because of the shameful unwillingness of this Congress to protect the independence of the special counsel, one of our nation’s last remaining protections from tyranny, we can no longer simply wait for the outcome from Muller’s investigation,” Muroff stated. “I believe the only remaining remedy to this blatant obstruction of justice is the president’s impeachment and removal from office.”

Republicans Weigh Primary Endorsements

Ahead of this weekend’s meeting of Republican State Committee, observers are trying to figure out if PAGOP will make endorsements in the key gubernatorial and U.S. senatorial primary contests, both of which are crowded with applicants.

In a four-way race for the gubernatorial nod, State Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York), who can handsomely self-fund, and House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) have done well in regional caucus straw votes: 175 for Wagner, 113 for Turzai. Both are well known in Southeastern Pennsylvania Republican circles.

Wagner has already formed a ticket with fellow millionaire Jeff Bartos of Montgomery County, who dropped out of the race to challenge U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) to team up as Wagner’s lieutenant governor running mate. They claim $7 million cash on hand. They present a tempting package for PAGOP. But Turzai has been around forever and knows everybody. And Southwestern Republicans know how to punch above their weight.

JURISTS honored Judge Deborah Canty during the Robing Ceremony at City Hall. Seen were, L-R, Judges Dane Gray, Canty, Jonathan Irvine and Kai Scott. Photo by Joe Stivala

Two other business executives from the Southwest, Paul Mango and Laura Ellsworth, have shown no inclination to drop out of the race, though. Mango is also independently wealthy, so he can afford to stick around. Ellsworth is relatively cash-poor; but if 2018 turns out to be the year of the woman, in a four-way race, the name “Laura” on the ballot may appeal to enough Republican women to edge her past the guys.

Four candidates are vying for the lieutenant governor’s residence. As for the four candidates seeking the Republican nomination in the lieutenant governor’s race. Beside Bartos, of Montgomery County, Berks County’s Otto Voit, who has run statewide judicial races, has done well in some caucuses. and Lancaster County’s Gordon Denlinger Montgomery County’s Joe Gale received no votes.

In the senatorial derby, Congressman Lou Barletta (R-Luzerne) looks to have insurmountable momentum. An early leader in populist conservatism, predating even Trump to some degree, he will be hard to beat after having picked up 78% of the collective caucus votes. State Rep. Jim Christiana (R-Beaver) has some legs in Western Pennsylvania and may elicit covert support from Republicans who are uneasy about Barletta’s close branding with Trump. At 34, Christiana is announcing serious ambition; but he has time on his side.

Adams County’s Cynthia Ayers, Franklin County’s Bobby Lawrence and Delaware County’s Paul Addis are also in this race, likely for practice.

New State Rep Hopefuls Emerge

In Philadelphia’s Oak Lane 200th Legislative District, currently occupied by freshman State Rep. Chris Rabb (D-Northwest), Melissa Scott is challenging. A former staffer of then-State Rep. Cherelle Parker, Scott graduated from Howard University. She has a strong financial background, including a stint as IT project manager in the Philadelphia Department of Revenue. She has been active with Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corp. and is a member of Delta Sigma Theta.

In Frankford’s 179th District, Abu Edwards will challenge incumbent State Rep. Jason Dawkins (D-Kensington). Edwards is seeking in part to align with the young-progressive insurgent movement (not that Dawkins is either old or conservative).

With all due respect, a verity of Philadelphia grassroots politics is that no occupant is ever safe in the 179th for long.

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