Eleven-term Rep. Robert A. Brady (D-Pa.) will not run for reelection, ending a long career in Philadelphia politics after being embroiled in scandal over an alleged payoff to a would-be challenger.
“Today I’m choosing family over service,” the 72-year-old Brady said a news conference on Wednesday afternoon.
In October, two of Brady’s consultants — Donald Jones and Ken Smukler — were indicted in a probe of a $90,000 payment that Brady’s 2012 campaign made to challenger Jimmie Moore. The FBI’s probe ensnared Brady himself, though the congressman professed his innocence, even after Jones pleaded guilty last month to making false statements about the payoff.
Brady, who never faced a serious challenge in a seat gerrymandered to elect a Democrat, was already facing opposition on his left. Nina Ahmad, a Philadelphia deputy mayor and progressive activist, launched a primary challenge in November, telling the Philadelphia Inquirer that “we haven’t had a progressive voice here from this region” and that after decades of being represented by Brady, “people are ready for a change.”
As Brady’s problems mounted, more Democrats were discussed as possible challengers. Richard Lazer, the labor secretary under Mayor Jim Kenney, said this month that he was “seriously considering” a run. Omar Woodard, a local venture capitalist and activist, has also been discussed as a potential candidate. The progressive group Reclaim Philadelphia, which scored a major 2017 upset by helping elect Black Lives Matter lawyer Larry Krasner as the city’s district attorney, has been vetting potential candidates, offering campaign help to anyone with a credible left-wing record.
“We want to be represented by someone who’s going to fight for all of us as people, oppose the Trump agenda, and govern with grassroots movements,” said Amanda McIllmurray, an organizer with Reclaim Philadelphia. “We don’t currently see that from any of the candidates.”
Candidates for Brady’s seat will have until March 6 to file, and the primary will be held May 15. As of Wednesday afternoon, no Republican had filed to run in the district, which in 2016 gave 79.5 percent of the vote to Hillary Clinton. While a state Supreme Court decision has ordered the drawing of new congressional maps, Philadelphia is expected to have two deep blue seats — Brady’s and a more heavily African American district, like the one represented by Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Penn.).
Brady’s retirement has also created the sixth open-seat contest in Pennsylvania in this cycle, creating competitive races in one-third of the state’s districts. Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) announced their retirements last year, while Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) vacated his seat to run for U.S. Senate. Two Republicans — Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) and former congressman Tim Murphy — retired in the wake of sex scandals involving female staffers. Meehan will serve out his term, while Murphy’s resignation triggered a surprisingly competitive special election, which will be held March 13.