Little opposition at polls for Philly lawmakers in shelved state probe

    Three Philadelphia lawmakers who were targets in a undercover investigation are running unopposed in the May 20 Democratic primary. 

    City Republicans have no plans to campaign against the legislators in the general election, either.

    The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Sunday that four Democrats in Philadelphia’s state House delegation — Ronald Waters, Vanessa Brown, Louise Bishop and Michelle Brownlee — allegedly accepted cash or money orders from “little-known lobbyist” Tyron Ali while he was wearing a wire for state prosecutors, according to newspaper sources. The legislators reportedly failed to disclose the payments as required by law.

    Attorney General Kathleen Kane said at a press conference Monday that she is not bringing charges because the probe, started by her predecessor, was mismanaged and possibly racist. All of the lawmakers who were named in the Inquirer article are African-American. Kane also said there was no evidence of “quid pro quo.”

    Brown is the only ensnared lawmaker who is facing a primary challenger. Democrats Isaac Patterson and Wanda Logan are both running against her.

    Patterson, an advisory board member at Imhotep Institute Charter High School, said he has years of experience as a community organizer and is therefore better equipped than Brown to fight for adequate funding for the city’s schools.

    “As a legislator, there’s a lot of things that you can ask for,” he said. “It’s done a lot easier if you know how to properly organize parents or the adults in the community and actually have them do most of the demanding for you.”

    Logan did not return messages asking for comment. On a campaign website, she said, “I am determined to demonstrate that partisan politics and back-room deals are not acceptable.”

    In an interview with the Inquirer, Brown’s attorney denied any wrongdoing.

    Joe DeFelice, executive director of Philadelphia’s GOP, said the city desperately needs more competitive elections. But he said there are currently no credible Republican candidates interested in running against the four lawmakers accused of pocketing money.

    “Do we want to compete in every corner of the city? Yes,” said DeFelice. “But we want to do it with qualified candidates. … Putting up someone’s brother or next-door neighbor or cousin just so you have a name on the ballot, I don’t really think that’s giving the people a choice.”

    Questions to the four lawmakers were referred to House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody’s office. Dermody said in a statement that he was “concerned by the apparent targeting of a select group of legislators.” He added, “If it’s true that any legislators accepted gifts without reporting them, they should correct that reporting mistake.”

    Former Traffic Court Judge Thomasine Tynes also admitted to the Inquirer that she accepted a $2,000 bracelet from Ali.

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