Second Congressional District Candidates Make Their Pitch at Beth Hillel-Beth El Forum

Facing adversity, Democrat Chaka Fattah will be going against two newcomers — Dan Muroff, the Democratic ward leader of Philadelphia’s Ninth Ward, and Brian Gordon, the Lower Merion Township commissioner in the 12th Ward.

Pennsylvania’s second congressional district is filled with controversy, as incumbent Democrat Chaka Fattah is under indictment for bribery, money laundering and bank and mail fraud, among other charges. He’s also running for reelection.
Facing adversity, Fattah will be going against two newcomers — Dan Muroff, the Democratic ward leader of Philadelphia’s Ninth Ward, and Brian Gordon, the Lower Merion Township commissioner in the 12th Ward.
Also in the race is Pennsylvania State Representative Dwight Evans of the 203rd District, who has served since 1980.
The primary election is April 26. The winner will face Republican James Jones in the general election on Nov. 8.
Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in Wynnewood recently held its 10th annual candidates forum for the second district, giving the candidates a chance to woo voters.
“Obviously, everyone knows it’s a two-person race,” said Terry Madonna, a political science professor at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, referring to Fattah and Evans.
Madonna told the Exponent he is not surprised Fattah is still running for reelection because politicians often get accused of crimes and stay in office. He noted that even amid the allegations, city Democratic Party leader Bob Brady, who represents the first congressional district, endorsed Fattah.
Fattah has served his constituents for 21 years and knows many people still support him. In 2014, he won 88 percent of the vote. Madonna believes those types of numbers will help him come November.
“The only issue here is if the charges against Fattah matter to the voters,” he said.  “When you think about it, he’s done an awful lot of service for the district.”
The district includes several parts of the city — West Philadelphia, North Philadelphia and Northwest Philadelphia — in addition to parts of South Philadelphia, Center City and part of Lower Merion Township in Montgomery County.
According to the Cook Partisan Voting Index, it is the third most Democratic congressional district out of the 435 in the nation. Madonna noted that both Fattah and Evans are accomplished politicians with lengthy track records.
“It’s still an uphill battle to defeat an incumbent because the charges don’t mean he’s guilty,” Madonna said.
Larry Ceisler of Ceisler Media and Issue Advocacy shared Madonna’s sentiments about the race.
He added that because of Fattah’s good relationship with Israel and the Jewish community in Philadelphia, there’s a good chance he will be reelected with the help of Jewish votes.
“It’s a strange race because of Chaka Fattah’s indictment,” Ceisler said. “My guess is a lot of Fattah supporters are skeptical of federal law enforcement.”
Gordon told the Exponent that Fattah would likely have the support of the Democratic Party if he was not charged.
“It put the entire race in play,” Gordon said, referring to the indictment.
Gordon and Muroff may be underdogs but weren’t afraid to express their opinions at the forum.
Gordon spoke about three items he is prioritizing: poverty and economic development, education and reducing violence.
“I looked at the district, and I saw there were three seemingly attainable problems and I believe that they can be solved,” he said.
According to Gordon, many schools are overcrowded and have seen their guidance counselors, nurses and extracurricular activities cut. He questioned how anyone can succeed without a proper education.
Often, students in these poorly funded schools end up selling drugs, going to jail and then having a “scarlet letter on their background,” Gordon said.
At the forum, Muroff touched on his professional experience, which includes having served as a chief of staff to a member of Congress. That makes him the only challenger with significant legislative experience on Capitol Hill, he said.
He also discussed his professional experience as an advocate for charitable and nonprofit organizations such as the Career Wardrobe.
Additionally, he spoke about his work as past president of East Mount Airy Neighbors, past president of Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania and past president of CeaseFirePA.
The audience asked questions about his support for Israel, gun violence and how to solve it and in-depth questions about his Capitol Hill experience.
“My family formed my values,” Muroff said. “My mother committed herself to building her union, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, where she served on the executive committee. Her example both inside and outside the home led me to become an advocate to reduce gun violence, to protect our environment and to improve our communities. In Congress, I won’t back down on my fight to reduce gun violence and to transition to a clean-energy future.”
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