As Keystone Politics reported Wednesday, Democrat Jay Paterno’s nominating petitions for a spot on the lieutenant gubernatorial ballot are ripe for a court challenge—the only question was which one of Paterno’s opponents would decide to drag him into court.
Today, we have the answer. Harrisburg City Councilman Brad Koplinski has hired election law attorney Larry Otter, who will challenge the signatures Monday.
To get on the ballot for lieutenant governor, candidates must collect 1,000 petition signatures, including 100 signatures from 5 counties. Paterno narrowly met the 100 signatures from 5 county threshold, with 185 in Allegheny, 305 in Centre, 109 in Chester, 108 in Mifflin, and 119 in Philadelphia.
All Koplinski has to do is have enough signatures stricken to get Paterno below the 5 county threshold.
As Koplinski’s lawyer told PoliticsPA, “It’s a sure thing.”
Paterno, however, said he is confident in the petition signatures he submitted.
“I oversaw the petition gathering effort,” Paterno said. “A member of my family, a volunteer or myself gathered each one of these signatures. The people of this Commonwealth are tired of politics as usual and we look forward to discussing the real issues that matter to working families here in Pennsylvania.
“Voters in the Commonwealth should be the ones to select the party’s nominee for Lt. Governor,” Paterno said.
Of all the lieutenant governor candidates, it makes the most political sense that Koplinski would come forward with a petition challenge. Koplinski has been hoping to perform strongly in the center of the state, and Paterno’s natural political base is Centre County.
Thus, Paterno’s late entry into the race arguably hurt Koplinski the most. And his removal from the ballot arguably helps Koplinski the most.
Overall, it’s a smart move.
It remains to be seen, however, whether Koplinski’s decision to take Paterno to court will result in backlash from would-be Paterno supporters. Paterno leads the race in polling, and Paterno’s supporters are unlikely to take kindly to Koplinski’s tactics.
Paterno’s most loyal supporters are likely to break for other the candidates, including former Congressman Mark Critz, State Senator Mike Stack, Bradford County Commissioner Mark Smith, and State Representative Brandon Neuman.
This political calculus surely played a role in Koplinski’s decision, and in his estimation the benefits outweighed the costs.