Is this without precedent?
The Philadelphia Inquirer has endorsed Armond James, a Republican, over Rep. Chaka Fattah, the Democrat who’s held the seat in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1995. (I met Rep. Fattah in Philly way back in the 1990s.)
One of Rep. Fattah’s aides admitted to a conspiracy to misuse taxpayers’ money and charitable funds to pay off debt from his campaign for mayor and his son’s college tuition. Rep. Fattah “took days to defend himself and longer to produce more than a terse, generic denial.” From the editorial:
Even now, rather than address the details of the allegations, the Philadelphia Democrat prefers to draw attention to his achievements in Congress, the excesses of federal authorities, and the presumption of innocence.
Fattah is certainly entitled to be considered not guilty until proven otherwise. Innocence of criminal wrongdoing, however, is not tantamount to fitness for office.
The lack of formal charges against Fattah – the recent plea doesn’t even identify him by name – puts voters in an awkward position, though. They must choose between an accomplished congressman under the shadow of an investigation and his promising but novice Republican opponent, Philadelphia schoolteacher Armond James.
After acknowledging some of Rep. Fattah’s achievements, the paper contends that James “has made a point of spending time in some of the district’s rougher neighborhoods, advocates more support for vocational alternatives to college as well as corporate tax reform to improve employment.”
Whether James wins or not, the newspaper’s endorsement signals at least a willingness to look beyond the old way of thinking. Integrity trumps politics.
Photo credit: Philly.com