Steelworkers back Fattah in his bid for 12th term in Congress

 U.S. Rep. Chakka Fattah answers questions outside the federal courthouse Tuesday. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

U.S. Rep. Chakka Fattah answers questions outside the federal courthouse Tuesday. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Despite facing potentially career-ending political corruption charges, indicted U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah of Philadelphia is having no problems securing campaign endorsements.

On Thursday, Philadelphia’s Local 404 of the United Steelworkers Union threw its support behind the 11-term lawmaker, who is accused of misusing campaign contributions, grant money and charitable donations.

The union did not respond to a request for comment.

The Steelworkers are the second major union to endorse Fattah. Last week, Local 1199-C of the Hospital Workers Union backed him. So did a slew of elected officials, including the city’s Democratic Party chairman U.S. Rep. Bob Brady and state Sen. Anthony Williams.

Roughly 20 ward leaders are also supporting Fattah.

Even former Philadelphia Mayor John Street, who typically stays out of the public eye, is speaking up, though he hasn’t formally endorsed Fattah.

“It’d be disgraceful if a person gives us all that service, and we turn our back on him when he’s under attack,” Street told a crowd at an unrelated political event earlier this month.

The endorsements could prove critical to Fattah’s fundraising efforts, which, so far, have been dismal.

As of Sept. 30, the last filing, he had roughly $2,600 on hand. (The total is under $1,000 when debt is factored into the calculation.)

Fattah said he wouldn’t have much more come Jan. 31, the next campaign finance deadline, but that he will have “enough money to be competitive” going forward.

Not that he’s particularly concerned about having campaign dollars.

“If you take my name recognition, the fact that I’ve been an incumbent for two decades, [my challengers] would need war chests five times the size they have to get on a similar footing in the district,” said Fattah.

State Reps. Dwight Evans and Brian Sims, as well as Philadelphia ward leader Dan Muroff and Lower Merion Township Commissioner Brian Gordon, are expected to run against Fattah in April’s Democratic primary.

Evans, considered Fattah’s biggest competition, reportedly has well over $200,000 on hand.

A competitive congressional primary can see candidates raising $2 million — or more.

In late July, federal prosecutors hit Fattah and four associates with a 29-count indictment that includes charges of racketeering, conspiracy, bribery and wire fraud.

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 2007 Philadelphia mayoral campaign.

Fattah has maintained his innocence. His trial is scheduled for six days after the Democratic primary. Because of the district’s makeup, the race will effectively crown the district’s next congressman. Roughly 80 percent of voters there are Democrats.

Fattah, who hasn’t had primary challengers since first being elected to Congress, predicts he’ll not only win, but that he won’t lose a single neighborhood in the process.

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

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.