Kasich's Pennsylvania ballot challenge withdrawn; clears way to primary

Ohio Governor and Republican presidential candidate John Kasich speaks at a town hall event on March 16, 2016, at Villanova University.
Ohio Governor and Republican presidential candidate John Kasich speaks at a town hall event on March 16, 2016, at Villanova University.
Photo by REUTERS
| Wednesday, March 16, 2016, 3:54 p.m.

John Kasich will appear on April's Republican primary ballot in Pennsylvania, next door to his home state of Ohio where he whipped front-runner Donald J. Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas on Tuesday.

Kasich's opportunity to continue the fight for the nomination here was in question after representatives of Marco Rubio's campaign challenged Kasich's petitions, claiming the Ohio governor did not submit enough valid signatures to appear on the ballot.

On Wednesday, a day after the Florida senator suspended his campaign, Rubio student operative Nathaniel Rome dropped the Commonwealth Court filing he initiated, said Chris Bravacos, CEO of the Bravo Group and brother to the attorney representing Rome.

Bravacos said Rome asked to withdraw his objection to the Kasich nominating petition. He did not elaborate.

In the final days of Rubio's campaign, as he tried desperately to win Tuesday's primary in his home state, he encouraged his supporters in Ohio to vote for Kasich, “a truly magnanimous gesture,” according to Republican media consultant Bruce Haynes, partner at Purple Strategies in Washington.

Rubio lost badly to Trump in Florida and dropped out; Kasich won in Ohio and continues.

Now Kasich, 63, a Pennsylvania native, is trying to pick up Rubio's Pennsylvania campaign organization.

“We said all along that we are going to be on the ballot on Pennsylvania, and given the fact that the governor spent 18 years of his life in Pennsylvania, we feel very confident he will do well there,” said Rob Nichols, spokesman for the Kasich campaign.

Bravacos, the Pennsylvania chairman of the Rubio campaign, said Rubio's loss was too fresh for him to consider whom he and the robust team of organized activists in the state would support now.

“Unfortunately, Marco Rubio inspired a very large organization of grass-roots volunteers and fundraisers; we are certainly disappointed that his campaign is not moving forward,” Bravacos said.

Bravacos said the Kasich campaign approached them for support, but the Hershey Republican said, “It's still too early to say — people need to flesh things out. Remember we only just lost yesterday.”

Former Rep. Bob Walker of Pennsylvania, who has been a senior adviser to the Kasich campaign since the beginning, said he and others have been working to win over the Rubio team since Tuesday night.

“There are ongoing discussions that have been very friendly,” said Walker, a power player in Congress from 1977 to 1997 who represented the 16th Congressional District in Lancaster. “We would love to have their people come over to support us.”

Walker said, “I expect by the end of the day a substantial amount of the impressive Rubio team will join us.”

The Kasich campaign has said it was confident its candidate would be on the ballot in Pennsylvania.

Having complicated Trump's march to the Republican nomination by winning Ohio and its 66 delegates, Kasich is trying to position himself as the best candidate in a contested convention.

Although he trails Trump and Cruz, Kasich consistently outperforms both of them in polls comparing the GOP candidates to Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee.

A Mercyhurst University poll released this week showed Kasich outperforming Trump and Cruz against Clinton in Pennsylvania, leading her 49-36 in a potential matchup. The billionaire businessman fared worst, trailing Clinton 35-43.

The poll of 421 registered voters is one in a series of polls since January showing Kasich with a healthy lead over Clinton.

Salena Zito is a Tribune-Review staff writer. She can be reached at szito@tribweb.com.

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