State Rep. Miranda seeks re-election despite felony corruption charges

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  State Rep. Jose 'J.P.' Miranda will stand trial on felony corruption charges tied to an alleged plot to funnel taxpayer dollars from a 'ghost employee' to his sister. (Brian Hickey/WHYY)

State Rep. Jose 'J.P.' Miranda will stand trial on felony corruption charges tied to an alleged plot to funnel taxpayer dollars from a 'ghost employee' to his sister. (Brian Hickey/WHYY)

Over the next week, candidates seeking public office in Pennsylvania will file nominating petitions to get their names on the ballot.

Despite currently facing political-corruption charges, state Rep. Jose “J.P.” Miranda (D-197th) will be part of that pack, and that has some people scratching their heads.

 

Allegations hover

In late January, a Philadelphia grand jury indicted Miranda and his sister, Michelle Wilson, for allegedly hiring a “ghost employee” to funnel taxpayer dollars to the latter.

The pair is also accused of lying to the grand jury about Wilson’s role in her brother’s office.

Wilson allegedly served as Miranda’s unofficial chief of staff after being told state nepotism laws bar relatives from working for family members.

The pair is facing three felony charges: Conflict of interest, perjury and criminal conspiracy.

Re-election prospects dim

In the April 2012 primary, Miranda received nearly 40 percent of the vote, defeating runner-up Jewel Williams, the daughter of Philadelphia’s sheriff, by 434 votes, according to the Philadelphia City Commissioners Office’s website.

He would win the general election with 95 percent of the vote in a legislative district that currently includes parts of North Philadelphia and a slice of Northwest Philadelphia, including East Falls.

As the case heads to trial, though, political consultant Maurice Floyd said it will be “nearly impossible” for Miranda to win May’s Democratic primary.

His freshman-lawmaker status is a big reason why.

“He has no deep roots in the area that he represents,” said Floyd. “To add to that, it’s been redistricted so there will be new voters. So now, you have to explain to the new voters who have not been associated with you anyway on what’s going on.

“You’ll spend more time talking about what happened in that investigation than what you’ve done and what you intend to do your second term.”

Redistricting has, among other things, divvied his East Falls constituents between two other Philadelphia lawmakers.

Fundraising, said Floyd, will also be incredibly challenging without party support.

Local ward leaders have “abandoned” Miranda. Longtime Pennsylvania state Sen. Shirley Kitchen, for whom Miranda worked before running for office, has also deserted him.

“He’s on an island,” said Floyd.

Tayoun’s take

James Tayoun, publisher of the Philadelphia Public Record and a former city councilman who knows a bit about corruption charges, said Miranda should seriously consider sitting this one out or putting his public office days behind him altogether.

“It’s just an exercise in futility, but when you first run for office and you get elected, I think what happens to some of these guys is they think they are the office forever,” Tayoun said. “They don’t realize they’re stewards.”

In Miranda’s corner

A. Charles Peruto Jr., Miranda’s attorney, said his client is confident that he can overcome the allegations.

“I don’t have a crystal ball,” said Peruto. “I just know what type of representative he’s been, and I know what kind of person he is, and if the voters know that about him, they’re going to re-elect him.”

Attempts to reach Miranda for comment this week were unsuccessful.

Miranda could have as many as four challengers in May’s Democratic primary.

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