Fattah racks up another labor endorsement in fight to retain congressional seat [UPDATED]

 U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah receives the endorsement of the Service Employees International Union, which represents health care workers, school employees, social service workers, security officers and property service employees. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah receives the endorsement of the Service Employees International Union, which represents health care workers, school employees, social service workers, security officers and property service employees. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Four labor unions have now endorsed indicted Philadelphia Congressman Chaka Fattah, who is seeking a 12th term in office while facing trial on political corruption charges.

Service Employees International Union, Pennsylvania’s largest service employees union, is the latest to back the veteran lawmaker.

The group has endorsed Fattah every time he’s run for re-election in the 2nd Congressional District, as well as his failed bid for Philadelphia mayor in 2007.

“He has such an incredible track record with our membership and in the communities where our members live in fighting to lift those communities up and fighting to create better jobs for working people,” said chapter vice president Gabe Morgan during a Tuesday press conference at the union’s Center City headquarters.

SEIU represents roughly 80,000 health care workers, school employees, social service workers and security officers. Morgan said the endorsement would be about mobilizing his union membership something Fattah couldn’t happier about.

“With SEIU standing, we know that above the noise, they’ll actually know about this work. Above the kind of distractions of the moment, that the voters will get to understand that the work that they sent me to Washington to do has been done well,” said Fattah, who maintains his innocence.

District Council 33, Local 11-99C of the Hospital Workers Union and Local 404 of the United Steelworkers Union have also pledged their support to Fattah.

He also has the support of roughly 20 African-American ward leaders and a slew of elected officials, including Philadelphia’s Democratic Party Chairman Bob Brady and state Sen. Anthony Williams.

The endorsements could prove critical as Fattah fights allegations that he misused campaign contributions, grant money and charitable donations. And, as he takes on what’s expected to be a crowded field of Democratic primary challengers — the first he’s had since first running for Congress in 1994.

State Rep. Dwight Evans, ward leader Dan Muroff and Lower Merion Township Commissioner Brian Gordon have all said they will run against Fattah.

On Tuesday – the deadline for candidates to file their nominating petitions – state Rep. Brian Sims dropped out of the race to focus on his re-election bid in the 182nd Legislative District. He had been running for seats in Harrisburg and Washington at the same time.

“While I am grateful for the support and encouragement I have received from citizens throughout Philadelphia, I am ending my bid for Congress and will keep working to fix our broken government in Harrisburg. The district deserves new leadership, and I am urging Philadelphia voters to support my friend and colleague whom I trust to carry on our quest for justice, Dwight Evans,” said Sims in a statement. 

When it comes to fundraising, Fattah is trailing his competitors. As of Dec. 31, he had less than $8,000 on hand. On Tuesday, Fattah directly addressed his financial woes while accepting SEIU’s endorsement.

“People have been counting the wrong things. They think this is an auction. We know that this is an election. And it’s not so much a bank account that’s going to matter, but it’s going to be an account of the work that’s been done,” said Fattah.

A 29-count indictment charges Fattah with racketeering, conspiracy, bribery, wire fraud and other offenses.

In the alleged scheme at the heart of the case, Fattah is accused of using a pair of nonprofits he founded to help repay part of an illegal $1 million loan made to assist his unsuccessful mayoral bid in 2007.

Fattah’s trial is scheduled for six days after April’s primary, the race that will effectively crown the district’s next congressman. Roughly 80 percent of voters there are Democrats.

The district includes parts of North, West and Northwest Philadelphia and most of Lower Merion Township in Montgomery County.

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