If you'd like to serve in local office, the process starts with what is known as a nomination petition If you'd like to get on the GOP ballot for NorCo Council, you need signatures from 250 registered Republicans who live in the county. If you're running for a nonpartisan office like school board or magisterial district judge, you will need registered Republicans to sign one petition and registered Democrats to sign another.
For smaller offices like a borough council slot, it's relatively easy to get ten good signatures. But for County Council, getting 250 signatures can be tough. But for Philly City Council, you need 1,000 signatures, all of them gathered in the dead of Winter. To lighten the load, both parties have ... well ... parties at which everyone comes and signs for everyone else. In some larger counties, candidates will actually pay for valid signatures.
Last Tuesday (March 7) was the final date for municipal candidates to their file nomination petitions. They also have to dig into their own pockets and pay cash or write out a check to file. Even Executive John Brown was required to write out a $100 check payable to the county. I actually had to lend money to a candidate, and a Republican no less, who forgot to bring money.
All election officials will do is make sure you have the requisite number of signatures. They will also make sure that you filed your Statement of Financial Interests.
After that, it's a one-week waiting game to see of anyone will challenge a nomination petition. Other candidates for the same position will scour through the signatures and look for problems. Objections to all nomination petition were on November 14, but that deadline was extended one day because of Nor'Easter Stella.
Nomination challenges must be decided quickly so that the elections registrar can prepare a ballot. There is a strong judicial interest in favor of letting the voters decide. "The Election Code should be construed liberally ‘so as to not deprive an individual of his right to run for office, or the voters of their right to elect a candidate of their choice.’” Rick Orloski once said voters should decide elections, not judges. But our tribunals are downright anal about some things like the statement of financial interest. If that is filed in the wrong place or a day late, it is fatal to a campaign.
As of 4 pm yesterday, there were four challenges filed in Northampton County against the nomination petitions filed by Magisterial District Judge candidate Nick Englesson, Easton City council candidate Terrence Miller, Easton City Council candidate Taiba Sultana and Palmer Tp Supervisor candidate Charles Bellis III.
Magisterial District Judge candidate Nick Englesson. - This objection was filed by Allentown Attorney Ron Clever on behalf of Joe Garcia and Pat Romig-Passaro. According to this complaint, Nick signed off as circulator, but someone else did the actual signature gathering. Clever argues that Engesson should therefore be denied a spot on the ballot. (Jon Whittington is behind this, and he has a very difficult task.)
Easton City Council candidate Terrence Miller. - This objection was filed by Bethlehem Attorney Vic Scomillio on behalf of Richard Bader. According to Scomillio, over half of the signatures obtained by Hand are not registered voters, live outside the district or belong to another party. (Jim Edinger is behind this challenge, and the onus is on him).
Easton City Council candidate Taiba Sultana. - This objection was also filed by Bethlehem Attorney Vic Scomillio, this time on behalf of Ryan Hall. According to Easton's Home Rule Charter, "Only those who are and have been for at least one (1) year registered voters of the City shall be eligible to hold the office of Council Member or Mayor." Since Sultana only registered in Easton in February, she is therefore ineligible, claims Scomillio. She may be ineligible to "hold" the office, but she could argue she is certainly eligible to run. If elected, she would be unable to "hold" the seat until February 2018. There would be at most a 30-day vacancy. Sandra Vulcano, who really should call it quits after 10,000 years in office, needs that City Council job so she can sell pens and palm cards to other candidates who don't need them.)
Palmer Tp Supervisor candidate Charles Bellis III.- This objection was filed by Easton Attorney Theresa Hogan on behalf of Ruthann Arras.Hogan's chief objection appears to be Bellis' use of the nickname "Zeke." She does not really object to Bellis. This is the sole objection that seems innocuous.
Nomination challenges can backfire, even if you win. Ask Cindy Miller, who challenged Marc Grammes in the state house race last year. She looked like such a jerk that, even though she won the challenge, she lost the primary.
In the Lehigh County races, Nat Hyman's fingerprints are all over the Republican Mayoral challenges. Hyman's mouthpiece, Larry Otter, has already called Luiz Garcia, an Allentown police officer, a "knucklehead." That prompted another challenged GOP Mayoral candidate to come to Garcia's defense. "Quite frankly, even though I'm his opponent, I admire the guy for stepping up and going for it," said Pez on Robert Trotner's Facebook page.
Courtney Robinson, who considers himself a Dem operative and now wears suits and is a big boy, has challenged John Rosario. The Jenn Mann - Charlie Thiehl- Pete Schweyer- Schlossberg cabal want someone on City council to do their bidding.