Rep. Chaka Fattah’s (D-Pa.) 22-year reign over Pennsylvania’s 2nd Congressional District seat, which includes Penn’s campus, came to a stunning end on Tuesday when state Rep. Dwight Evans won the Democratic primary. Evans beat Fattah, a 1986 Fels Institute of Government graduate, by eight percentage points.
Evans, a political veteran who has represented the 203rd District (Philadelphia County) in the state House of Representatives since 1980, challenged the incumbent following Fattah’s July 2015 indictment for racketeering conspiracy and other charges.
In the general election, Evans will run for the seat against Republican candidate James Jones, who was uncontested. The seat has been in the hands of the Democratic Party since 1948 and has been held by an African-American for the past 50 years.
Tuesday also marked the first time Fattah was challenged in a Democratic primary after winning the seat in 1994 for the first time. Over his 22 year career in Congress, Fattah became popular for consistently securing federal funds for projects in the district, which is overwhelmingly Democratic and African-American.
The district also includes parts of North Philadelphia, West Philadelphia, South Philadelphia and Lower Merion Township.
Brian Gordon, a Lower Merion Township commissioner and lawyer, came in third with 11.42 percent of the vote, with 73.84 percent of precincts reporting. Ninth Ward leader Dan Muroff, who was endorsed by The Philadelphia Inquirer, finished last with 8.25 percent of the vote.
Gordon had a strong showing, despite being outmatched in campaign contributions. As of April 6, he had raised $46,695 in donations compared to Muroff’s $351,243, according to FEC filings.
Fattah, 59, conceded just after 10 p.m. on Tuesday, touting his record of bringing resources to the district, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
His loss marked a stunning fall from grace for the legendary congressman. When Fattah last ran for reelection in 2012, he won with 89 percent of the vote.
The congressman’s indictment last year opened the window for potential candidates to challenge him. Fattah originally had four challengers until state Rep. Brian Sims, who currently represents parts of Philadelphia in the state House of Representatives, suspended his candidacy on Feb. 16.
Fattah’s legal troubles began in 2014 when Gregory Naylor, Fattah’s former chief strategist for his 2007 mayoral bid, pleaded guilty to concealing the misuse of hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grant funds and campaign contributions. Naylor admitted to having conspired with Fattah to pay off a series of debts with campaign and federal money.
Almost a year later on July 29, 2015, Fattah was indicted by federal authorities on 29 counts. The congressman was accused of diverting campaign funds, federal grants and charitable donations to finance his failed 2007 mayoral campaign. Four of his partners were charged as well, including his district office chief of staff Bonnie Bowser.
After an unsuccessful attempt to have his corruption case dismissed based on congressional privilege, Fattah’s trial is scheduled to proceed on May 2, less than a week after the Pa. primary.
In an unrelated incident, his son, Chaka Fattah Jr., was sentenced to five years in prison and was ordered to pay $1.1 million in restitution after being convicted of tax fraud. He is currently appealing his conviction.
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