A Philadelphia lawmaker has resigned after pleading guilty in a controversial corruption sting. What happens next is in the hands of Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai.
Democratic state Rep. Ron Waters pleaded guilty Monday to nine counts of conflict of interest after he and four other current and former legislators were accused of taking cash from an informant posing as a lobbyist. Waters resigned following a court hearing in Dauphin County.
Turzai now has 10 days to set a date for a special election to fill Waters’ seat. There will not be a primary, and members of all parties will be invited to run. Turzai’s spokesman Stephen Miskin did not know when the speaker plans to issue the required writ of election.
Meanwhile, Miskin said it is a critical moment for constituents to be without their state representative.
“June is the budget-making time, and it is a time when, frankly, you do want a voice in Harrisburg,” Miskin said. “They will obviously still have a state senator representing them.”
City District Attorney Seth Williams picked up the case after it was abandoned by state Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who claimed the probe intentionally targeted black lawmakers.
Former state Rep. Harold James also pleaded guilty Monday to one count of conflict of interest. He and Waters were sentenced to 23 and 12 months’ probation, respectively. The two will also pay restitution to the state.
State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown was expected to enter a guilty plea Monday, but changed her mind at the last minute. A new hearing is scheduled for July 13, according to the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office.
State Reps. Michelle Brownlee and Louise Bishop have not entered pleas and keep their seats in the House.