I call this silly season because there’s so much silliness. During the three week nominating petition period we almost get bad weather, dozens of candidates hold kickoff events, announcements and petition signing parties and then we get to the real madness: petition challenges. Challenges are an opportunity to beat your opposition not based upon the issues, debates or public discourse but by going to court and claiming they did not obtain enough valid signatures. Dan Onorato has decided to challenge Joe Hoeffel’s position on the ballot by going to court. It is a risky move because if you fail it comes back to haunt you and if you win a lot of voters see you as a bare knuckles, desperate candidate seeking to win through technicalities. Challenging a foe in a big race has big stakes.
Joe Hoeffel slammed Onorato for his move this morning in a scathing press release:
Persons acting on behalf of Onorato Tuesday filed suit in Commonwealth Court seeking to challenge a sufficient number of Hoeffel’s signatures to have him removed from the ballot.
Lauren Townsend, co-manager of the Hoeffel campaign issued the following statement:
“We filed petitions with 7,632 signatures from 33 counties, and we had more than 100 signatures on petitions from 15 counties.” (Law requires gubernatorial candidates to have at least 2,000 signatures in total and have at least 100 signatures from 10 counties.) “That is nearly four times what was required to get on the primary ballot.
“We have verified that we have a sufficient number of signatures to meet the requirements of gubernatorial candidates to get on the ballot. We didn’t pay anybody to get petition signatures. Staff and volunteers did all of the hard work. Everything was checked out. We are totally confident that our petitions are good.
“Joe Hoeffel is the best candidate with the best ideas. We’ve got the poll numbers to prove it, and Mr. Onorato probably does, too. Dan Onorato has good reason to be scared, and now he has turned desperate. This is a cowardly act. Throughout this campaign Mr. Onorato has tried to bully candidates, and now the bully has blinked.”
The Allegheny County Executive’s campaign has been losing steam since early February when Jack Wagner got the majority of votes from the Pennsylvania Democratic Party and Hoeffel is a strong challenger from eastern PA. Pennsylvania votes split east/west and both Wagner and Onorato are from western PA. Tony Williams is seeking to play the spoiler to Joe Hoeffel and most observers are wondering why he got into this race. If he wants to bring urban issues to the discussion he’s going about it the wrong way because no one from Pittsburgh gives a darn about Philadelphia or its issues. Williams’ entry in the race actually destroys Philadelphia’s chances to be heard and have its issues addressed by the next Governor.
Dan Onorato has to hope he prevails or Hoeffel will hammer him on this throughout the spring.
Update: The petition challenge was withdrawn Wednesday afternoon.