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Mon-Yough residents seek to remove GOP challenger from 35th District primary

| Friday, March 28, 2014, 1:06 a.m.

Two Mon-Yough residents want to remove a Republican challenger of state Rep. Marc Gergely, D-White Oak, from the spring primary ballot in the 35th Legislative District.

The candidacy of Kenneth Peoples, 42, of White Oak will be on the line Thursday in Commonwealth Court.

Filing on behalf of Alexander D. Foster and Carrie Gergely, Pittsburgh attorney Ronald J. Brown said numerous signatures on Peoples' petition as posted on the Pennsylvania Department of State website are not from registered Republicans.

Brown said he found other irregularities as well.

“It is pretty straightforward that candidates like Mr. Peoples need 300 valid signatures,” Brown said. “Mr. Peoples filed with 331 attempted signatures (and) we've challenged 77.”

No one else filed to run in the GOP primary nor against Marc Gergely, 44, in the Democratic primary.

Foster is from White Oak, as are Peoples and Marc Gergely. Carrie Gergely is from the Fawcett Plan area straddling McKeesport and White Oak.

Peoples called the challenge to his petitions shameful and said he did not have the “special interest money” to hire an attorney to defend his petitions.

“My petitions may not be the neatest, however they were gathered at every free moment of time I had available, going door to door in harsh winter weather while holding down an honest job,” Peoples said. “I am not a career politician with the time and helpers that comes with incumbency. My petitions are comprised of honestly obtained signatures that I will defend to any judge.”

The appeals court scheduled a hearing for Thursday at 1 p.m. in Courtroom 1 on the 17th floor of the Frick Building in downtown Pittsburgh.

Brown is one of 12 shareholders in the law firm of Grogan Graffam PC. Other shareholders include Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa Jr., D-Forest Hills.

Peoples is a paramedic, real estate agent, White Oak Republican Committee chairman and past candidate for McKeesport Area school board and Allegheny County Council.

The challenge to Peoples is the only one involving a Mon-Yough candidate.

Other challenges pending before Commonwealth Court include a bid by four voters to remove Robert R. Guzzardi, the 70-year-old Montgomery County conservative activist seeking to unseat Gov. Tom Corbett in the GOP primary.

Two voters filed objections to the bid by former Penn State assistant football coach Joseph V. “Jay” Paterno Jr., 45, for the Democratic nod for lieutenant governor.

The Paterno case is scheduled on Monday while the Guzzardi case is set for Wednesday, both in Harrisburg.

Gergely, a former McKeesport Area school board president, hasn't had much opposition in six state House terms.

In the spring of 2002 he won the Democratic nod to succeed Rep. Tom Michlovic, D-North Braddock, with 38 percent of the vote to 32 percent for then-fellow McKeesport Area school director Lori Spando and 30 percent for Christopher M. Terrick of Munhall.

No Republican ran in 2002 and Gergely had no primary foe in 2004, but that fall Libertarian David Posipanka of Homestead mounted the first of two 35th District challenges, losing to Gergely by 92 percent to 8 percent.

Then-Allegheny County Clerk of Courts George Matta II took on Gergely in the 2006 Democratic primary and was edged out, 54 percent to 46 percent. Gergely then was unopposed in the fall of 2006.

Gergely's last electoral opponent was Posipanka in the fall of 2008. The Libertarian netted 11 percent to 89 percent for the incumbent Democrat.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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