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Ted Harhai's candidacy challenged

| Tuesday, March 25, 2014, 7:21 a.m.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent
State Rep. R. Ted Harhai of Monessen gives his remarks at the Monessen Women of Distinction event at St. Spyridon Hellenic Hall in Monessen on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2013.

A Commonwealth Court Judge will decide whether state Rep. R. Ted Harhai can remain on the primary election ballot.

Harhai, whose 58th Legislative District includes Monessen and Rostraver Township, faces a challenge to his nominating petition.

The objection, filed by three Monessen residents, aims to disqualify him from the ballot.

Harhai, a Monessen Democrat, faces a hearing 1 p.m. Wednesday in the Frick Building in Pittsburgh to determine if the objection is valid.

The petition, filed by Monessen residents Patricia DiGioia, Nelson Yates and Eugene Maisano, alleges Harhai did not submit his 2013 Statement of Financial Interests to the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission by the March 11 deadline.

A copy of Harhai's Statement of Financial Interests obtained by The Valley Independent shows Harhai signed and dated the document March 3. However, the commission time-stamped the document as being received 4:42 p.m. March 18.

Each election cycle, each candidate for state office must file a nomination petition and statement of financial interest with the State Department and provide a copy to the Ethics Commission by a certain date.

Attorney Lawrence M. Otter of Doylestown, Pa., who is representing DiGioia, Yates and Maisano, claims Harhai made “a fatal mistake.” Otter said he has handled similar election cases for more than 20 years.

“This one is pretty cut and dry. It's in black and white,” Otter said. “I was absolutely astonished that (Harhai) and at least six or seven other people failed to do this. ... If you are a first-time candidate, I can see how you can make this mistake, but he's the only elected official I know of that failed to do so.”

Contacted by phone Monday, Harhai declined comment. His attorney, Courtney Kishel Powell of Hershey, did not return a phone message seeking comment.

Harhai, who was first elected in 1998, is opposed on the Democratic ballot by first-year Monessen Councilman John Nestor. Tom Logan, a Hempfield Township supervisor, is running unopposed for the Republican nomination.

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbruni@tribweb.com or 724-684-2635.

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