PHILADELPHIA (AP) — U.S. Rep. Bob Brady of Philadelphia, a plainspoken former carpenter who has served as the city's Democratic Party boss for 30 years, announced Wednesday he will not seek another term in Congress, insisting he's retiring to spend more time with his family and not because of a corruption case dogging him.
"It's mixed emotions, but I want to see the birth of my new great-granddaughter," Brady said at a press conference in Philadelphia, wearing a long-sleeve shirt bearing the Philadelphia Eagles logo. "I want to walk a grandchild to school, which I've never ever done. And I've missed a lot of birthdays and family gatherings, and I just think that 20 years, it's time to come back home."
Brady, 72, has been caught up in a corruption investigation over a payment his campaign made to a primary opponent in 2012. The FBI has said it believes Brady unlawfully concealed the $90,000 payment to get the opponent to quit the race, which he did. At one point, prosecutors also alleged in court documents that Brady had tried to influence a witness in the case.
Three people already have pleaded guilty to campaign finance-related charges in the case, including a former consultant for the congressman. But Brady was never charged, and on Wednesday, he declared, "I did nothing wrong."
Brady said his lawyers had advised him that he would not face charges because the statute of limitations had run its course.
Asked whether his departure was part of a deal with federal prosecutors, Brady said, "Zero, absolutely, positively — you mean for me to resign? No. Zero. ... I made no deals with nobody."
Brady rose through the ranks of the city's powerful carpenters' union and Democratic Party before winning election in 1998 to Congress, becoming the senior Democrat on the House Administration Committee and a member of the House Armed Services Committee. But he was probably best known as Philadelphia's most prominent cheerleader, frequently focusing his political clout and attention on matters at home.
At his press conference, he called himself "the luckiest guy in the world" and said he loves his job, but also said it was time to spend more time with his wife and family, including great-grandchildren.
He was facing a potentially stiff primary challenge from a former city official, Nina Ahmad, as his district faced near-certain changes now that a gerrymandering lawsuit has prompted the state Supreme Court to order a redrawing of the boundaries of Pennsylvania's 18 congressional districts. The decision is on appeal by top state Republican lawmakers at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Brady's district is heavily Democratic, and will likely remain in Democratic hands, although changing demographics — younger and more minority residents — posed a challenge for Brady.
In a statement, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called Brady "a forceful champion for working people in Pennsylvania and across the nation" and the "Mayor of Capitol Hill."
Brady's retirement means there are six open seats in Pennsylvania, the most in decades. Four Republican congressmen have announced that they would not seek re-election — one, Lou Barletta, is running for U.S. Senate — while another Republican congressman, Tim Murphy, resigned in a scandal last fall.
Levy reported from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.