Of Pennsylvania’s top-of-the-ticket Democratic candidates who filed nominating petitions Tuesday, lieutenant governor candidate Jay Paterno’s petitions appear to be the most susceptible to a legal challenge.
Candidates for lieutenant governor are required to submit 1,000 signatures with at least 100 coming from 5 different counties.
Keystone Politics manually counted the signatures in Paterno’s filing, which contained 1,117 signatures from 17 counties, based on the electronic copies at the Department of State website.
Although the DoS website shows signature folders from only 12 counties, various folders included petitions from counties other than those listed. So, we manually sorted them ourselves to get a correct count.
Paterno narrowly met the 100 from 5 county threshold, with 185 in Allegheny, 305 in Centre, 109 in Chester, 108 in Mifflin, and 119 in Philadelphia.
In no county other than these 5 did Paterno pass the 100 signature threshold.
So, to have Paterno removed from the ballot, all that a challenger would have to do is get 9 signatures struck in Mifflin or 10 struck in Chester to get Paterno below the required amount.
Even though Mifflin and Chester seem to be the path of least numerical resistance to a potential challenger, it is Paterno’s signatures from Philadelphia and Allegheny counties that appear to be the most facially vulnerable.
Paterno’s Philadelphia numbers include 90 signatures circulated by two residents of Philadelphia, and 29 signatures obtained by Diana Paterno of Springfield Township, Montgomery County.
On each of Ms. Paterno’s 4 Philadelphia petitions (29 signatures), she appears to have incorrectly executed the Affidavit of Circulator before the Notary. On each petition, Ms. Paterno states that the county of petition signers is Montgomery, not Philadelphia.
If those 29 signatures were removed, Paterno would have only 90 signatures in Philadelphia, taking him 10 below the amount required for his Philadelphia signatures to count toward the 5 counties above 100 requirement.
In his Allegheny County petitions, Paterno executed Affidavits of Circulator on 6 petitions circulated on Sunday, March 9 which contain 157 of his total 185 Allegheny signatures. It is unlikely that Paterno managed to personally collect all of these in a single day. As a result, his Affidavit of Circulator could realistically be challenged.
All that an opponent would have to do is identify a few people from the Allegheny County petitions who signed and inquire about the circulator who handled the petition they signed. A successful circulator challenge would bring Paterno well below the 100 signature threshold for Allegheny, again bringing him below the 100 from 5 counties threshold.
Now the only question is who, if anyone, will challenge Paterno in court.
According to recent polling, Paterno leads the lieutenant gubernatorial pack with 17%. Former Congressman Mark Critz is close behind at 16%, and the remaining candidates (State Senator Mike Stack, Harrisburg Councilman Brad Koplinski, and State Representative Brandon Neuman) are each in the single digits.
Each candidate would seemingly benefit from having the frontrunner removed from the ballot.