Philadelphia’s Democratic Party may not end up in DA Williams’ corner

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams (left) and U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams (left) and U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The 2017 Democratic primary election isn’t until May, yet already names of possible opponents to Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams are making the rounds, with one contender officially announcing a challenge.

And as Williams seeks a third term in office under a federal investigation, he may not have the support of the Democratic City Committee.

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, who chairs the Democratic Party in Philadelphia, said typically incumbents have an advantage — especially in an off-year election — but given that the FBI and IRS are digging into Williams personal and campaign finances, and Williams’ late disclosure of $160,000 worth of gifts, his name recognition might not give him leverage.

“The problem with what they know is they’re not that happy with what they know, with all these issues that have come up,” Brady said in a phone interview. “The idea that there are people lined up to run against an incumbent, that tells it all.”

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But that hasn’t deterred the Democratic City Committee in the past. The party backed former 11-term U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah ahead of his primary, which Fattah lost before being convicted of all charges in a federal corruption case in June.

However, Brady said, Williams’ situation is different.

“That’s a district seat, and the people in that district who happen to know him and like him and respect him, and thought he was doing a good job. And they did an endorsement as kind of a wait-and-see,” Brady said. “This is a citywide, and there’s certainly a little bit of a problem here.”

A real debate is expected on whether the Philadelphia City Committee will endorse Williams, Brady said, noting that “it won’t be a rubber stamp, that’s for sure.”

Former federal prosecutor Joe Khan quit his job to run against Williams;  Brady said two others, both judges, have expressed interest in running against Williams.

“This shows that there are people who feel that he is vulnerable,” Brady said. “He’s got an investigation looming over his head, and people want to see just how far it goes.”

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