Tuesday, March 30, 2010

An Update on Petition Challenges

One of the first tests of a candidate's fitness for office is the ability to get the number of signatures required to be on the ballot. Petitions can be challenged and often are, sometimes for valid reasons, sometimes just to tie up a campaign with legal fees and court appearances. How a candidate reacts to a challenge, and whether and how a candidate challenges someone else (or causes another candidate's petitions to be challenged) can say a lot about them.

In the 2006 primary election, Patrick Murphy faced a petition challenge which was denied and dismissed in court (see my post about it here). The campaign still had to appear in court and pay legal fees but their behavior was an early sign of character on Murphy's behalf. State Rep. Babette Josephs is facing a primary opponent this year. Her campaign manager challenged Greg Kravitz's petitions, but the challenge was later withdrawn. Another Philadelphia state rep, Mike O'Brien, is also in hot water, petition-wise. Someone in his legislative office used state equipment to fax copies of a primary opponent's petitions as part of a challenge (see "Petition-gate?" by Angela Couloumbis, on the Inky's Commonwealth Confidential blog).

There are times when a challenge is justified, and exposes sloppy or fraudulent work by a campaign or a lack of supervision of campaign volunteers or workers. Republican candidates in Delaware County have been having a particular problem with petitions this year. Aston District Judge David Murphy has been arrested and charged with several crimes, including forgery. From "Delco judge faces charges of forgery," by Mari A. Schaefer in today's Inky:

Investigators determined that 64 signatures on his nominating petitions for the 2009 primary had been forged, said G. Michael Green, the district attorney.

In August, Murphy, a Republican who has been a district judge since 1991, allegedly told a witness that he had been concerned he did not have enough signatures to qualify as a candidate on the Democratic ticket and that he forged them, according to court documents.

Were that not problem enough, 7th district Republican congressional candidate Pat Meehan is having petition problems of his own. His petitions are being challenged for fraudulent signatures and other irregularities. At first DA Green was going to investigate but he is referring it to the state because of a conflict of interest (which may or may not be the fact that Green has donated to Meehan's campaign). However, since Meehan has made political donations to Attorney General Tom Corbett, now a Republican candidate for governor, there may be problems with his role as investigator as well. (For details see "State to take over inquiry into Meehan petitions," by Joelle Farrell, also in today's Inky).

Watch your districts for petition challenges, and look at who is challenging, how, and why.

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