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Pritchard continues to try to get rival's name removed from Fayette ballot

| Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 7:58 a.m.

A Fayette County Common Pleas judge on Monday again denied a prothonotary candidate's bid to have the name of a competitor stricken from the ballot.

Senior Judge Gerald Solomon denied the petition filed by Robert “Ted” Pritchard, 61, of Fairchance, objecting to the candidacy of Paul Shipley.

Solomon denied Pritchard's earlier challenge in April as untimely without holding a hearing.

Commonwealth Court Judge Anne E. Covey found that Pritchard's objections were “timely filed,” and she ordered the case remanded to Fayette County.

That hearing was held on Friday morning.

In his order, Solomon noted Pritchard objected to “irregularities” regarding Shipley's nominating petition, including illegible signatures, deficient statement of financial interests and suspect to having “forged signatures of non-voters or voters.”

Pritchard attempted to call Larry Blosser, director of the Fayette County Election Bureau, to testify to alleged nominating petition defects.

The court ruled Blosser was not qualified to testify as an expert witness.

Solomon noted that in his filed objections, Pritchard did not cite any signature as being forged, belonging to an unregistered voter or show evidence of how Shipley's financial interest statement was deficient.

He presented no evidence regarding those issues at Friday's hearing, Solomon's ruling stated.

“The Court directly questioned Pritchard, ‘(C)an you point to any one or have any evidence that any one of these people aren't registered voters and eligible to sign the petition?' ”

“Pritchard responded, ‘No, I can't,'” the ruling stated.

Solomon concluded that the law requires an objector to prove that a nomination petition is invalid.

Absent convincing a court that challenged signatures are not genuine, the challenge must be resolved in the candidate's favor.

“At the time set for hearing, the only evidence presented by Pritchard were copies of the nominating petitions of Paul Shipley. Pritchard failed to present any testimony or evidence in support of his objections, and failed to meet any burden of proof showing his alleged ‘irregularities' in the nominating petitions,” Solomon wrote.

“Accordingly, the ‘Petition Setting Forth Objections to the Nominating Petition' filed by objector, Robert T. Pritchard, to the nominating petition of Paul Shipley for the office of prothonotary of Fayette County, must be denied,” Solomon's order read.

Pritchard earlier tried to eliminate the other candidates' nominating petitions for various reasons.

Judges at the county and state level denied his challenges to Pamela Hudson's and Nina Capuzzi Frankhouser's petitions, but Pritchard has asked the state Supreme Court to hear his appeals on both.

The primary election is scheduled for May 21.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com.

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