Blackwell out of rep race?

Posted: March 28, 2008

His options closed off by court decisions, state Rep. Thomas W. Blackwell IV apparently has decided not to appeal a ruling that knocked him off the Democratic primary ballot.

Blackwell and his lawyers did not return telephone calls yesterday, but his opponent, Vanessa L. Brown, said she'd heard from her attorney that Blackwell was giving up his court fight.

The two-term lawmaker from West Philadelphia could still run a write-in campaign in the April 22 primary. But it would have to be unusually well-organized to succeed when the Democratic contest for president is expected to bring a heavy voter turnout.

Collecting names on his nominating petitions last month, Blackwell appeared anything but organized. He turned in scores of voter "signatures" in the same handwriting, and had some of his petitions circulated by individuals from Delaware County, instead of by voters in his legislative district as state law requires.

Commonwealth Court's president judge, Bonnie Brigance Leadbetter, eventually ruled that Blackwell had only 184 valid signatures, with 300 required.

Blackwell, 49, the stepson of City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell and son of the late U.S. Rep. Lucien Blackwell, has not returned calls since Leadbetter reached her decision.

His lawyers had planned to appeal on grounds that the petition challenge against him had been filed several hours too late. But the state Supreme Court foreclosed that option last week with a ruling in another case, seeking to remove state Rep. Harold James from the ballot. The James case is still pending.

Brown, 41, a community activist who used to work for the People's Emergency Center, said yesterday that she'd continue to campaign as if Blackwell were still in the race.

"I'm new to the game, I don't know the rule book, and the guys I'm running against wrote the rule book," Brown said. "I've got to keep pushing."

The unopposed Republican nominee is Rahim Foreman, 36. *

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