Ballot challenges filed against Pennsylvania candidates

Posted: August 10, 2010

It's one thing for an independent or third-party candidate to get on the ballot in Pennsylvania.

It's another for the candidate to stay there.

Powers that be in the Republican and Democratic Parties were behind legal challenges in Commonwealth Court on Monday against the ballot eligibility of several candidates for governor and Congress.

The Republican State Committee said it had done "research" for a trio of citizens who challenged the election petitions of three Libertarian Party contenders - Marakay Rogers, running for governor; Douglas M. Jamison, for the Senate; and Kat Valleley, for lieutenant governor.

Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Joe Sestak challenged a Green Party candidate who has attempted to join the race with Republican Pat Toomey. Challenges also were filed against minor candidates in two area races for the House.

Actions of this type have become part of political tool kits around the country as the major parties vie for every election edge.

Rogers, of York, said Republicans must be concerned that she would take some conservative votes away from their gubernatorial nominee, Tom Corbett, the state attorney general.

"It's incredibly cowardly of major-party politicians to hide behind other party people in their fear of showing their faces when they challenge minor parties," she said.

The Corbett campaign said, however, that it had nothing to do with the challenge, which questions whether Rogers had the 19,082 signatures of registered voters necessary for her to gain a spot on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Sestak's challenge of Green candidate Mel Packer marked the second time in this election cycle that the Delaware County Democrat has resorted to the courts to remove a potentially nettlesome opponent.

Packer, a physician's assistant from Pittsburgh, could draw some left-leaning voters from Sestak, which could be significant in a close race with Toomey.

"We believe there are many apparent examples of election improprieties in Mel Packer's submission," J. Manly Parks, a Duane Morris L.L.P. lawyer who filed the challenge, said in a statement.

In the Democratic primary against Sen. Arlen Specter, Sestak successfully sued to knock independent candidate Joe Vodvarka off the ballot.

Sestak is the rare candidate who signed his own name to his challenges. Candidates typically don't like to get their hands dirty, instead lining up voters to formally file ballot-access lawsuits or relying on party committees.

In the Seventh Congressional District, Republican nominee Pat Meehan is backing a challenge to Jim Schneller, a third-party candidate.

The suit argues that Schneller should be stricken because those who signed his nominating petitions did not know his campaign received help from operatives working on behalf of Democratic nominee Bryan Lentz.

"This is merely another disingenuous and even desperate attempt by Lentz and his allies to game the system through the use of the petition process," said James Gardner Colins, a lawyer who filed the challenge on behalf of two registered voters.

Schneller, a former sales and marketing director from Wayne, could not be reached for comment Monday. He has denied that he had contact with Lentz campaign workers or that he knew of any organized effort to help him get on the ballot.

In the Eighth District, a challenge was filed against Tom Lingenfelter, an independent trying to get into the contest between Democratic incumbent Patrick Murphy and GOP nominee Mike Fitzpatrick.


Contact staff writer Tom Infield at 610-3134-8205 or tinfield@phillynews.com.

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