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Republicans fight bid by Corbett challenger
Question of the Day
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A lawyer challenging Bob Guzzardi’s gubernatorial bid said Thursday that he should be thrown off the Republican primary ballot for violating the state ethics law, but Guzzardi’s attorney said his client is a victim of “gotcha politics” whose candidacy should be upheld.
Commonwealth Court Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt wound up a two-day hearing on Guzzardi’s nomination petition and said she would rule quickly on whether he is entitled to be Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s only opponent in the May 20 primary election.
The most contentious issue was the failure of Guzzardi, a conservative activist, to file a statement of financial interests with the State Ethics Commission by a March deadline for nomination petitions, even though he filed the same statement with the State Department a day early.
Lawrence Tabas, attorney for the Republican Party-backed challengers, said the failure to file with the ethics commission by the deadline is a “fatal defect” for Guzzardi’s candidacy under the ethics law. While exceptions to the filing deadline have been made under extraordinary circumstances, Tabas said there were none in this case.
Guzzardi, who has said missing the deadline was an oversight, took “a casual approach” to the ethics filing requirement, Tabas said in his closing arguments. “He just assumed that filing with the secretary of state was sufficient.”
Gretchen Coles Sterns, Guzzardi’s attorney, questioned the gravity of the missed deadline, noting that the contents of his financial report were available on the State Department website after he filed his nomination petitions.
Sterns said the double-filing requirement is confusing and encourages “the gaming of the electoral process” by those who know how to use it.
“It just seems like a lot of gotcha politics to me,” she said.
Major party candidates for Pennsylvania governor must collect at least 2,000 voters’ signatures, including 100 from each of 10 counties, to qualify for the ballot.
Tabas brought in a handwriting expert Monday to bolster the challengers’ efforts to strike dozens of individual voters’ signatures on Guzzardi’s petition for reasons that included, for example, voters who listed an address or name that did not match their registration.
On Tuesday, Tabas protested efforts by Guzzardi’s supporters to “rehabilitate” signatures that challengers had marked as potentially defective by visiting the voters at home and asking them to sign affidavits attesting to the correct information.
Sterns said the affidavits clarified apparently erroneous details, but did not give petition signers “a second bite of the apple” as Tabas charged.
“We’re not obtaining new signatures,” she said.
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