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Here are the Pennsylvania candidates whose nominating petitions have been challenged

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John Cole, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
February 22, 2024

Democrat Laurie MacDonald, who is seeking to unseat U.S. Rep. Summer Lee (D-12th District), is one of several candidates facing a challenge to appear on Pennsylvania’s primary ballot. 

An objection filed in Commonwealth Court claims that MacDonald’s nominating petitions have a number of irregularities, and a “pattern of impropriety in the signatures” that should disqualify her from the ballot. In Pennsylvania, candidates are required to gather 1,000 signatures from registered voters who live in the congressional district and are of the same party as the candidate in order to appear on the ballot for Congress. 

The MacDonald campaign is confident it has more than enough signatures to qualify. 

“The others in this race need to address the issues facing our district. Not spend time and money on disenfranchising district voters,” MacDonald told the Capital-Star in an emailed statement. “I look forward to talking to voters about how to unify our nation and get results for our community.”

A hearing on MacDonald’s case is scheduled for March 4. 

The ruling on MacDonald’s ballots could play a sizable role in how the 12th District primary plays out in western Pennsylvania. MacDonald, who joined the race in January, was the first candidate in the race to launch a TV ad campaign. Lee, who is seeking her second term, has a sizable cash advantage and outraised the rest of the state’s congressional delegation in the final three months of 2023. Edgewood Councilmember Bhavini Patel is also seeking the Democratic nomination. 

MacDonald is not the only candidate facing a challenge ahead of the April 23 primary. Here’s how the process works, and who else has a court date to defend their petitions. 

How the challenge process works in Pennsylvania

Candidates whose petitions meet the requirements are provided with a receipt of acceptance within a few hours of submitting them, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State. 

Election lawyer Adam Bonin tells the Capital-Star that the number of petition challenges varies from cycle to cycle. Most signatures that are later disqualified aren’t from voters seeking to commit fraud, he adds, usually people just don’t realize they’re not qualified. 

“Most of the time it’s a mistake in good faith,” Bonin said. “They don’t know whether they live in the district. They sign just to be polite because they don’t want to say no to a friendly person.”

Those who circulate petitions don’t have to live in the district, but must be registered members of the candidate’s party. The challenges are decided in Commonwealth Court, and if there’s a particularly heavy volume, they could borrow senior judges from the Superior Court who have served on the Commonwealth Court. 

Bonin said that most cases come down to whether a signature on a petition is a registered voter. Most of the attorneys who bring challenge cases know what they’re doing, he added, and so only bring serious cases. 

“But anyone is free to file them and you don’t always know,” he said. Bonin is an attorney on a case currently challenging the nomination petitions of Allen King, a Democrat running for Pennsylvania’s 1st Senate District. “For the most part the election bar is not going to waste the court’s time on shoddy cases.”

Here’s how the ballots are shaping up in other races across Pennsylvania

U.S. Senate

Joseph Vodvarkaa candidate in several previous races, filed to run in the Republican Party primary for U.S. Senate, against former hedge fund manager David McCormick.

The objection filed to Vodvarka’s nomination petitions charges that 577 signatures are invalid and should be stricken, which would put the candidate below the 2,000 signatures needed to make the ballot for U.S. Senate. A hearing on Vodvarka’s case is scheduled for March 5. 

Brandi Tomasetti, secretary and treasurer for Conestoga Township in Lancaster County, announced her candidacy for the Republican Party nomination for U.S. Senate in January, but had her petitions rejected, reportedly over mistakes by some of the volunteers collecting the signatures. She won an appeal seeking more time. The new deadline to file objections to Tomasetti’s petitions is Feb. 29. 

Democratic candidate Will Parker also won more time to file his petitions, seeking to challenge U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) in that party’s primary. Parker’s petitions can be challenged until Feb. 29. 

Vodvarka could not be reached for comment. Tomasetti’s campaign did not immediately return a request for comment. 

U.S. House

Tim Kramer is seeking to challenge U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Butler) in the 16th Congressional District, but an objection to his petitions claims that 329 signatures should be invalid, which would put him under the required number of signatures. A hearing on Kramer’s case is scheduled for Feb. 27.  His campaign did not immediately reply to a request for comment. 

Dasha Pruett, one of two Republicans to file for the 5th Congressional District, is also facing a challenge to her petitions. The objection filed to Pruett’s nomination petitions claims that 204 of the signatures are invalid, which would put her below the threshold. A hearing on Pruett’s case is scheduled for Feb. 29. Her campaign did not immediately reply to a request for comment. 

U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Delaware) is the incumbent. 

Pennsylvania General Assembly

Three candidates for Pennsylvania’s state Senate and 24 candidates for Pennsylvania’s state House have had their nomination petitions challenged. 

State Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny) is not seeking reelection for the 45th Senate District, resulting in five candidates filing for the competitive seat. 

Former Duquesne Mayor Nickole Nesby, one of the three Democratic candidates attempting to succeed Brewster, had her nomination petitions challenged. The objection filed to Nesby’s petitions claims that 396 individual signature lines are not valid, which would put her below the required 500 signatures. A hearing  on Nesby’s case is scheduled for Feb. 27. Nesby’s campaign could not be reached for comment. 

In the race for the Republican Party nomination for the 45th Senate District, Kami Stulginskas is the only candidate to have their petitions challenged. The objection filed claims that of the 699 signatures on the nomination petition, 247 of them should be deemed invalid. A hearing on the case is scheduled for March 4. Stulginskas’ campaign could not be reached for comment.

The third candidate for state Senate to have their petitions challenged is Allen King, a Democrat challenging state Sen. Nikil Saval (D-Philadelphia), in the 1st Senatorial District. The objection filed writes that a “shocking number of signatures bear no resemblance to the voter’s signature on file.” It also claims King does not meet the one-year residency requirement needed to make the primary ballot. A hearing on King’s case is scheduled for March 13. King’s campaign did not immediately reply to a request for comment. 

State Reps. Amen Brown and Rick Krajewski, both Philadelphia Democrats, are also facing challenges to their petitions.

The objection filed against Brown claims that he has not filed the mandatory financial disclosures needed to make the ballot. The hearing on his case is scheduled for March 4. His campaign did not immediately reply to a request for comment. 

The objection filed against Krajewski claims that the candidate inaccurately filled out the district he is seeking to run for. The hearing on this case is scheduled for March 1. His campaign did not immediately reply to a request for comment. 

Feb. 28 is the last day for withdrawal by candidates who filed nomination petitions.

The DOS says Commonwealth Court expedites objections cases in order to resolve them as soon as possible so county boards of election can finalize their ballots. Counties must deliver or mail all mail-in and civilian absentee ballots as soon as they are available and no later than April 9 in any event.

Capital-Star reporter Peter Hall contributed.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Pennsylvania Capital-Star under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.