PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Indicted Pennsylvania congressman Chaka Fattah, facing his first primary fight in two decades, has lost the Democratic primary just before the start of his federal corruption trial.
Fattah, an 11-term U.S. representative, had been outspent in the race as he struggled to raise funds for both the campaign and his defense lawyers. He was ousted on Tuesday by a 36-year state lawmaker, Rep. Dwight Evans, in his first primary fight in two decades.
Fattah has represented the Philadelphia region in Washington since 1995 and served on the powerful Appropriations Committee.
He’s accused of accepting bribes and misusing campaign funds and charitable grants to enrich his family and friends.
He has called the seven-year FBI probe that’s ensnared his son and close aides a political witch hunt and says he has done nothing wrong.
“There were forces arrayed against us tonight of very powerful and influential people,” Fattah said in conceding before supporters Tuesday night at a union hall in Philadelphia.
Jury selection in his trial starts next week. Opening statements are set for May 16.
The 2015 indictment describes four schemes, two involving efforts to erase $1 million in debts from Fattah’s failed 2007 bid for Philadelphia mayor. The indictment also charges four associates, including former staff members, with crimes and accuses Fattah’s wife of being linked to an $18,000 sham sale of a luxury car.
Fattah had three opponents in his heavily Democratic Philadelphia-area district.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and Gov. Tom Wolf backed Evans.
But Fattah had the support of other key players, including black ward leaders and other local officials.
Fattah, who’s 59, had won the office at 37 and soon became a fixture as the state’s only black congressman, representing the only predominantly black district in the state. He flew on Air Force One with President Barack Obama and brought home millions of dollars in federal funds for housing, scholarships, transportation and crime prevention.
However, the White House on Tuesday distanced itself from a robocall that used archival audio of Obama’s voice to urge voters to support Fattah and said it didn’t approve. In the clip, Obama was acknowledging Fattah at an event for his work on neuroscience research.
White House spokeswoman Jennifer Friedman said Obama hadn’t endorsed a candidate in the race. A Fattah campaign representative said she was seeking more information about the issue.
Fattah and his wife, former TV news anchor Renee Chenault Fattah, had long been a power couple on the Philadelphia scene.
But she left her job after the indictment, when prosecutors painted her as a participant in the sham sale of her Porsche to a lobbyist. She, like her husband, has said she did nothing wrong.
Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.