Two candidates nixed from primary ballot
Two candidates for local public offices — one for school board and one for City Council — in the May primary election had their names stricken from the ballot on Friday, while three more candidates wait on their status as Blair County President Judge Elizabeth Doyle further reviews arguments.
Republican Nikki Varney, one of the two candidates off the ballot, withdrew her name from the Hollidaysburg Area School Board race without contesting the petition to set aside her nomination made by Hollidaysburg Area School Board member Lois Kaneshiki.
Kaneshiki’s petition stated Varney did not file a financial interest statement by the March 7 deadline as required by the Pennsylvania Public Official and Employee Ethics Act.
In another Hollidaysburg school board challenge to a Republican candidate, teacher union president Jim Murphy challenged candidate Hailey Barger’s financial interest statement filing. Doyle said she would issue a written opinion on Barger’s case by Wednesday.
“It was an oversight on my part. I turned it, my financial interest statement, in to the elections office at the courthouse on March 7 … but did not turn it into the school district office,” Barger said.
Murphy argued at the hearing that a failure to present a copy of the financial interest statement to both the school district and elections office constitutes a failure to file by deadline under state elections law.
Aside from Varney, the second candidate removed from the ballot Friday was Altoona City Council candidate Samantha Paule, whose name was stricken from the Republican ballot after a successful challenge by Altoona resident and registered Republican William Strasser.
At issue in Paule’s proceeding was the 100 elector signatures needed to file for nomination in the primary.
County Elections Director Sarah Seymour confirmed 24 of the 116 elector signatures on Paule’s petition were invalid because the electors were not registered Republicans or their addresses did not match the county’s information.
However, Paule said she contacted seven of those electors again and they were confused that their registration was not listed as Republican or that their address was not updated to reflect where they currently live.
“I think that indicates a system issue with the elections office,” Paule said.
Nonetheless, even if the court allowed those seven signatures, Paule would have 99 of the 100 signatures needed for her name to appear on the ballot.
“Even if the court allowed those signatures, you are still one signature short,” Doyle said.
Elector signatures of Republican Altoona Council candidate Ron Adams were also challenged by Strasser.
Adams had 133 signatures, but Seymour confirmed 30 of those signatures challenged were invalid because of incorrect party affiliation or nickname use of those who signed.
“I personally went out and walked to houses and veterans homes in Altoona. I don’t ask them if they had a voting registration card,” Adams said.
In addition to the confirmed invalid signatures, Strasser’s attorney, Dan Kiss, said five more electors on Adams’ petition switched to the Republican Party after they signed the petition, which he said would make their signatures invalid.
However, Doyle said she needed time to review that section of the law and scheduled an opinion on Adams by Wednesday.
Adams said he’s ready to resort to a write-in campaign.
“Do what you have to do,” he said to Doyle. “I’ll do my best to be one of the four people at the end.”
Kiss stressed that Strasser’s challenge of Adams was only an issue of fairness.
“It’s not about limiting the playing field,” he said.
“Certainly he’s done a lot of work to get on the ballot, but the rules are there so everyone is playing by the same rules.”
The objection to Altoona Police Officer Troy Wright’s bid for magisterial district judge serving southern Blair County is scheduled to continue on Monday with a focus on rival candidate Andrew Blattenberger’s specific challenge to when and how Wright’s affidavits for his nominating petitions were notarized.
Wright and Blattenberger filed petitions to be on both the Republican and the Democratic ballots.
Blattenberger’s attorney, Matthew Logue, called Wright to testify on Friday, and questioned him at length about who was present at the notarization of his candidate and circulator affidavits and whose handwriting it was filling in his address and public office information on the notarized forms containing his signature.
Blattenberger’s petition raising objections to Wright’s nominating petitions alleges: “Upon information and belief, some or all of the notarizations are invalid as some or all affiants failed to personally appear before the notary public, swear that the information contained in the affidavits is true and correct and or sign the affidavits in the presence of the notary public.”
Wright said all of the affidavits were notarized on the same day, and he was there and was sworn in under oath by the notary.
Notary Cristi Lynne Waltz failed to appear in court despite being subpoenaed by Blattenberger’s attorney. The court proceeding was continued later Friday afternoon after a recess taken to locate Waltz for testimony.
When the proceeding resumed, Doyle said she received, and the court accepted, medical records of an emergency room visit for a sprained ankle and concussion suffered by Waltz Friday morning as a result of a fall. Logue also argued that there were “fatal” flaws in Wright’s statement of financial interests and invalid elector signatures on his petitions.
The flaws in the financial interest statement include unchecked boxes in some cases, which Wright said he left blank because he, for example, had no real estate interests and received no gifts to declare. But he left the boxes blank instead of following directions and checking the “no” box.
“Not checking a box is not a fatal error. It is a problem that can be easily fixed,” he said.
Mirror Staff Writer Russ O’Reilly is at 946-7435.