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Bob Brady
Chair of the Democratic Party of Philadelphia
Assumed office
June 16, 1986
Preceded byJoseph F. Smith
Chair of the House Administration Committee
In office
May 3, 2007 – January 3, 2011
Preceded byJuanita Millender-McDonald
Succeeded byDan Lungren
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 1st district
In office
May 19, 1998 – January 3, 2019
Preceded byTom Foglietta
Succeeded byBrian Fitzpatrick (Redistricting)
Personal details
Born (1945-04-07) April 7, 1945 (age 75)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic

Robert A. Brady (born (1945-04-07)April 7, 1945) is an American politician who served as the U.S. Representative for Pennsylvania's 1st congressional district from 1998 to 2019. He was the ranking Democrat and Chairman of the United States House Committee on House Administration from 2007 to 2019.[1] He has served as Chairman of the Philadelphia Democratic Party for more than 30 years[1] and is a registered lobbyist for NBC Universal and Independence Blue Cross.[2]

Early life, education, and pre-congressional career

Brady was born in Philadelphia, the son of Enez (née Caterini) and Robert G. Brady, a police officer. His father was of Irish descent, and his maternal grandparents were immigrants from Italy.[3][4] His mother Enez was also a Democratic committee member.[5] He graduated from St. Thomas More High School and Martin Technical School[6] but did not attend college, instead going to work as a carpenter and member of Carpenters Local 8.[7] He became a part of the leadership of the union and remains a member of several unions.[8]

He was elected a division committeeman for the Democratic Party in 1968. In 1974, his mentor[9] and ward leader George X. Schwartz got him a job as a sergeant-at-arms in Philadelphia City Council.[10] When Schwartz stepped down as ward leader in 1982[10] in the wake of the Abscam scandal, Brady was elected to succeed him as Democratic Leader of west Philadelphia's 34th Ward,[11] a position that he still holds today.[12]

In 1983 Brady ran for a At-Large seat on Philadelphia City Council. He was endorsed by Frank Rizzo[13] and lost in the primary election.[14] After Wilson Goode won the 1983 Philadelphia mayoral election, Brady joined Goode's staff as liaison with organized labor.[15] In 1986 he worked as an economic consultant on City Council's Economic Development Committee.[16]

Since June 1986, Brady has been the Chairman of the Philadelphia Democratic Party.[10]

Brady has been an professor at the University of Pennsylvania where he instructs graduate students in management and political science. In April 1991 he was appointed to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission by Governor Bob Casey Sr., a position he held until his election to United States Congress in 1998.[17]

In 1999 he married Debra L. Brady,[18] a former Philadelphia Eagles cheerleader.[19]

U.S. House of Representatives

Brady during the 115th Congress
Brady during the 115th Congress


In November 1997, 17-year U.S. Congressman Tom Foglietta resigned from his seat in the House of Representatives after being named U.S. Ambassador to Italy by Bill Clinton.[20] After a 1992 redistricting, the First District was becoming a majority Black district. Foglietta had defeated Black candidates in Democratic primaries in 1994 and 1996 and political observers assumed that his successor would be Black.[5] In February 1998, Brady announced he would be running in the special election for Foglietta's vacated seat, despite not living within the district.[21] When asked his position on NAFTA, Brady said "I don't know what that was about." When asked his position on abortion Brady said he had no position.[22] On May 11, Brady left a debate between the congressional candidates early to attend a ward meeting.[23]

The special election and primary election were held on May 19, 1998, with Brady running in both elections.[22] He faced three opponents in the special election and three in the primary election.[20] Brady won the special election with 74% of the vote and the primary election with 59% of the vote. His closest challenger in the Democratic primary was State Representative Andrew Carn, who received 21% of the vote.[24] Brady was sworn in by Newt Gingrich on May 21, 1998.[20]

In his first general election in November of 1998 he defeated Republican William M. Harrison, winning 81% of the vote. In his victory speech he defended President Bill Clinton, saying "We have business to take care of in Washington and it's not this business of embarrassing our President."[25]

Brady represented a heavily Democratic district and easily won each of his ten full terms, receiving at least 81% of the vote in each race and twice running unopposed.[26] Republican Deborah Williams ran against Brady twice, in 2004 and 2016.[27]


In his 20 years in congress, Brady was the primary sponsor of 14 pieces of legislation that were enacted into law[28] and co-sponsored 200 bills that became law.[29] Legislation that he co-sponsored mostly covered the areas of government operation, crime and law enforcement and transportation and public works.[30] He voted against free trade deals[31] and against the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002.[32] As a member of the United States House Committee on Armed Services, Brady was one of a select few permitted to view photos of the corpse of Osama bin Laden. "Oh he's dead," said Brady, "It's quite graphic. His brain and everything are coming out."[33]

During the course of his congressional career, Brady estimated he helped bring $15.5 billion dollars in federal funds to Philadelphia.[26]

Corruption case

In November 2017, it was revealed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was investigating Brady for alleged payments that Brady's campaign made in 2012 to an opponent in order to get the opponent to withdraw from the race.[34] In January 2018, he announced that he would not seek reelection.[35] He said that his decision had nothing to do with the ongoing corruption probe, but that he instead wanted to spend more time with his family.[35]

Political positions

Brady is pro-choice and voted against President Bush's restrictions on funding to family planning groups in 2001.[36] Over the years, he has supported minors' abortion rights, voting in 2005 for the right for those under 18 years of age to obtain abortions across state lines without parental consent.[37] He voted against the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, which prohibits health insurance companies from offering abortion coverage in a plan to any citizen. He opposed a proposal to prohibit federally funded abortion services.[38] Over the past fifteen years, organizations such as the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL), the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, and Planned Parenthood rated him 100%.[39]

Brady voted in favor of the Small Business Lending Fund and Tax Law Amendment. The September 2010 amendment provides loans to small business through financial institutions.[40] He supported the Small Business Jobs Bill in October 2010.

Brady voted against the Secure Fence Act (2006), which authorized the construction of additional fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as the Immigration Law Enforcement Act of 2006.[41] He supports Homeland Security Appropriations for border protection and The U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Technology project, which works towards improving the capability of the government to keep track of immigrants and control their entry and exit.[42] Groups such as the National Latino Congreso/William C. Velásquez Institute, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and the anti-immigration Federation for American Immigration Reform have rated Brady between 50% and 100% for his pro-immigration political stances.[39]

Attention to constituents

Brady claims to have once refused to receive a phone call from President Bill Clinton because he was busy helping a woman who had called seeking someone to come over and fix her toilet.[43][44]

Brady with President Clinton
Brady with President Clinton

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

Philadelphia Democratic City Committee

Brady has been chair of the Philadelphia Democratic Party since June of 1986,[47] when he replaced previous chair Joseph Smith. In his first bid for chair, Brady had the support of Wilson Goode, Lucien Blackwell, and the majority of Philadelphia's 69 Democratic ward leaders, who felt Philadelphia's Democratic Party was suffering from fragmentation, low-morale and financial trouble after losing the District Attorney race to Republican Ron Castille.[48] He was elected by a vote of 44-23.[10]

Wilson Goode credited Brady for his victory over Frank Rizzo in the 1987 Philadelphia mayoral election, saying "without Bob Brady being the party chair, it was possible I could have lost the election."[49]

A power struggle played out in the 1990 Democratic primary, with Brady's three party-backed candidates losing to candidates backed by William H. Gray III and the "Northwest Coalition", a group of high turnout Democratic wards in Philadelphia.[50] After these losses Brady's leadership of the party was questioned but ultimately he won a new four year term as chair. Wilson Goode supported Brady's re-election as chair, saying "Under Bob Brady's leadership, the Democratic Party has been more unified than it ever has been in the past two decades."[51]

After winning election to US Congress in 1998, he would say that he still considered running Philadelphia's Democratic Party his top priority.[52]

In 2003, protestors surrounded Democratic Party headquarters as Democratic committee members were inside considering primary endorsements. Protestors were demanding the resignation of party treasurer Johnny Dougherty over allegations that Dougherty, in his other role as a labor union leader, denied Black workers from being selected to work on taxpayer funded projects.[53]

The Democratic City Committee holds sway in judicial elections, where candidates will pay the party upwards of $35,000 for placement on a sample ballot. Brady has a large influence on this process, saying "I'm told I elect judges. That is the hand that was dealt me as party chairman 20 years ago."[54]

Through his tenure as chair, political consultants have praised his ability to unify the party.[55][56][57][58]

Brady has received criticism for the low turnout in Philadelphia's Democratic primaries, which has been as low as 10%.[59] Had Hillary Clinton received just 27 additional votes in each Philadelphia polling place, she would've won Pennsylvania's electoral votes in the 2016 United States presidential election.[31]

During the 2019 Philadelphia City Council elections, Working Families Party candidates Kendra Brooks and Nicolas O'Rourke were running for two seats reserved for minority party candidates.[60] Despite this being no threat to Democratic candidates running for City Council, Brady threatened expulsion of Democratic ward leaders and committee members who supported Working Families Party candidates.[61]

In June 2020, Northeast Philadelphia ward leader Brian Eddis called on Brady to resign as chair due to "lack of diversity in the party." Brady called a meeting of clergy members and party officials to discuss how to handle racial justice protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and the violent confrontations that had occurred near the statue of Christopher Columbus in Marconi Plaza. No consensus was reached.[62]

In March 2021, Brady reportedly asked Court of Common Please candidate Caroline Turner to drop out of the race in exchange for his help in getting her a judicial appointment at a later date. Brady also reportedly warned that she would not get the endorsement of Philadelphia's 2nd Democratic Ward.[63] The ward then endorsed Turner on March 25.[64]

2007 Philadelphia mayoral campaign

On January 25, 2007 Brady announced that he would seek the Democratic Party nomination for mayor of Philadelphia. He was the second sitting U.S. Congressman after Chaka Fattah to announce his candidacy for mayor.[65] On March 6, Brady failed to list his city pension on the financial-interests statement he filed with his nominating petitions. Within a week Milton Street filed a petition challenge to remove Brady from the ballot for failing to disclose his pension income. Another challenge was brought by a group of voters, and supported by mayoral candidates Tom Knox and Dwight Evans. On April 13, 2007, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled that Brady's failure to not list part of his income would not keep him off the primary ballot.[66] On May 15, 2007, Brady lost the Democratic mayoral primary to Michael Nutter.

Power and Influence

  • The Philadelphia Inquirer described him as "the longtime boss of the Democratic City Committee, one of the few old-fashioned big-city political machines left. Running against him could equal career suicide."[67]
  • Politico described him as "the old-school politician and party boss — known in Congress as a fixer and backroom dealmaker."[1]
  • In 2001, the political website PoliticsPA described him as a "consummate 'backroom politician' (and we say that with respect!)" and said that he might be the best county party chair in Pennsylvania.[68] In 2003, the Pennsylvania Report said that Brady has "managed effectively to balance his multiracial district and city Democratic party."[69][70]
  • In 2009, the Pennsylvania Report noted that "[w]hile he still would like to be Mayor, Brady's influence and power in Philadelphia remains strong."[71]
  • Pennsylvania State Senator Anthony Williams said he is "probably one of the most politically astute politicians in the last 20 years, and that's rarefied air." J. Whyatt Mondesire, head of the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP, said no one can match "Brady's relationships with politicians across the Democratic landscape."[72]
  • In 2015, during Pope Francis' visit to the United States, he stole the glass that the Pope drank from and then drank from it himself, had his wife and two others drink from it, had Sen. Bob Casey, his wife and mother as well as Rep. Joseph Crowley stick their fingers in the glass. He said he also planned to have the Philadelphia police dust the glass to lift the Pope's fingerprints. Brady said, "I'm sure it's blessed if the Pope drank out of it. Why not?" and "If not, I'm saying it is." Additionally, in 2009, Brady stole the glass used by former President Barack Obama after his inauguration.[73]
  • Congressman Brady has many times been a teller for the Joint session of the United States Congress to count and certify the Electoral College vote for President and Vice President. Congressman Brady is noted for incorrectly stating "Electoral Vote"; he instead says "Electorial Vote"

Electoral history

US House of Representatives

2016 US House Election

2016 Pennsylvania's 1st congressional district
 DemocraticBob Brady18327483.16%
 RepublicanDeborah L. Williams3711916.84%
 Democratic hold


2014 US House Election

2014 Pennsylvania's 1st congressional district
 DemocraticBob Brady9519585.16%
 RepublicanMegan Ann Rath1659214.84%
 Democratic hold


2012 US House Election

2012 Pennsylvania's 1st congressional district
 DemocraticBob Brady17383286.27%
 RepublicanJohn J. Featherman2766913.73%
 Democratic hold


2010 US House Election

2010 Pennsylvania's 1st congressional district
 DemocraticBob Brady132596100%
 Democratic hold


2008 US House Election

2008 Pennsylvania's 1st congressional district
 DemocraticBob Brady21699191.05%
 RepublicanMike Muhammed213248.95%
 Democratic hold


2006 US House Election

2006 Pennsylvania's 1st congressional district
 DemocraticBob Brady124352100%
 Democratic hold


2004 US House Election

2004 Pennsylvania's 1st congressional district
 DemocraticBob Brady19202486.75%
 RepublicanDeborah L. Williams2855812.9%
 IndependentChristopher Randolph7650.35%
 Democratic hold


2002 US House Election

2002 Pennsylvania's 1st congressional district
 DemocraticBob Brady10985287.74%
 RepublicanMarie G. Delaney1397311.16%
 GreenMike Ewall13791.1%
 Democratic hold


2000 US House Election

2000 Pennsylvania's 1st congressional district
 DemocraticBob Brady13487391.19%
 RepublicanSteven N. Kush130298.81%
 Democratic hold


1998 US House Election

1998 Pennsylvania's 1st congressional district
 DemocraticBob Brady7778881.1%
 RepublicanWilliam M. Harrison1589816.5%
 LibertarianJohn J. Featherman119811.6%
 Socialist Workers CampaignNancy Cole9641%
 Democratic hold


1998 US House Special Election

1998 Pennsylvania's 1st congressional district
 DemocraticBob Brady1364471.4%
 RepublicanWilliam M. Harrison294215.4%
 ReformJuanita Norwood18959.9%
 LibertarianJohn J. Featherman6193.2%
 Democratic hold


Mayor of Philadelphia

2007 Democratic Primary

Philadelphia mayoral primary election, 2007
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Michael Nutter 106805 36.6
Democratic Thomas J. Knox 71731 24.6
Democratic Bob Brady 44474 15.3
Democratic Chaka Fattah 44301 15.2
Democratic Dwight Evans 22782 7.8
Democratic Queena Bass 950 0.3
Democratic Jesus White 437 0.1



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External links

Media related to Bob Brady at Wikimedia Commons

Party political offices
Preceded by
Joseph Smith
Chair of the Philadelphia Democratic Party
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Thomas M. Foglietta
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 1st congressional district

Succeeded by
Brian Fitzpatrick
Preceded by
Juanita Millender-McDonald
Chair of the House Administration Committee
Succeeded by
Dan Lungren
Preceded by
Dianne Feinstein
Chair of the Joint Library Committee
Succeeded by
Chuck Schumer
This page was last edited on 27 March 2021, at 21:26
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