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White Oak Republican Peoples removed from primary ballot

| Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 4:31 a.m.

A Commonwealth Court judge removed White Oak Republican Kenneth Peoples from the May 20 primary ballot for state House in the 35th District.

Judge Patricia A. McCullough set aside the petition Peoples filed and rejected his argument that those filing against him did not have standing to do so.

Peoples could appeal McCullough's Monday ruling to state Supreme Court or run in the primary as a write-in candidate.

He learned of the ruling from a reporter and did not have a comment at presstime. However, Peoples previously said he planned to run a write-in bid if the court removed him from the ballot.

“We're pleased that the judge agreed with our contentions that Mr. Peoples did not have the legally required 300 (signatures),” said Ronald J. Brown, attorney for challengers Alexander D. Foster III and Carrie Mooney Gergely.

Gergely's husband is a relative of state Rep. Marc J. Gergely, D-White Oak, who is unopposed for renomination in the Democratic primary.

Brown said McCullough found only 291 valid signatures. Had all his challenges been accepted the final total would have been 275.

“That's not unexpected,” Brown said. “In the end there were enough defects so that there were insufficient signatures.”

McCullough drew on an April 3 court hearing where the number of signatures was reduced to 306, then on an analysis by a handwriting expert employed by Brown.

While it took two weeks for McCullough to make a ruling, Brown was not alarmed with the time needed.

“There was a pretty busy schedule of petition challenges,” Brown said. “I would just assume they were busy.”

Allegheny County Elections Division manager Mark Wolosik said there still is time to make a May 6 deadline for printing absentee ballots.

“We still have to do election machine testing,” Wolosik said. The county is “getting close” to completing the needed database.

“Once you close your database you can't keep making changes because you have to go back and retest everything,” Wolosik said.

Wolosik said Peoples could appeal to the state Supreme Court, as petitioners did after Commonwealth Court upheld Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert Guzzardi's right to remain on the ballot beside incumbent Tom Corbett.

“I don't see anything other than the judge following the election code,” Brown said. He doubted that Peoples or his attorney Lawrence M. Otter could find any “critical, unresolved questions” to ask in a Supreme Court appeal.

Otter could not be reached for comment at presstime.

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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