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Filings leave Corbett facing new challenge

| Tuesday, March 11, 2014, 9:18 p.m.

HARRISBURG — As state officials closed the door Tuesday on candidate petitions for Pennsylvania's May 20 primary ballot, Republican Gov. Tom Corbett faced not only a critical crowd of would-be Democrat challengers, but now a GOP foe at the opposite end of the political spectrum.

Bob Guzzardi, a conservative activist and Ardmore businessman, has been an outspoken Corbett critic, charging that he violated his 2010 campaign no-new-taxes pledge by increasing taxes on gasoline and authorizing new fees on natural-gas drilling.

In a telephone interview, Guzzardi renewed his own vow to self-finance his campaign and not accept contributions. He said his campaign will advocate “less debt, lower taxes, more for taxpayers, less for the government.”

“I did this so that Republicans have a choice,” he said.

The Democratic field narrowed Tuesday, the deadline for filing nomination petitions for various public and party posts, as Lebanon County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz abandoned her longshot campaign, citing signature requirements she said were too rigorous.

“In the end I had to circulate petitions and I came up short, so I take responsibility for that,” Litz said late Tuesday. “I have no regrets and no Plan B.”

State officials said all six other Democratic gubernatorial candidates passed muster, meeting the requirement that they collect at least 2,000 voters' signatures, including at least 100 from each of at least 10 counties.

They are York businessman Tom Wolf, state Treasurer Rob McCord, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, former state environmental protection secretaries Katie McGinty and John Hanger, and former state Auditor General Jack Wagner.

Guzzardi said he submitted only about 2,600 signatures and, though he said he filed additional signatures throughout the day, such a low total could make him vulnerable to a challenge of his petitions that could knock him off the ballot.

Candidates generally try to get several times the minimum number of signatures as a precaution against challenges. Corbett turned in more than 20,000 signatures Tuesday and “we have more coming in,” said his campaign manager, Mike Barley.

Challenges must be filed in Commonwealth Court by March 18.

Barley shrugged at Guzzardi's candidacy.

“It really doesn't change our campaign that much. We viewed this campaign as a full yearlong campaign,” he said.

Six Democratic candidates filed for the nomination for lieutenant governor: Jay Paterno, son of the late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, former U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, Harrisburg City Councilor Brad Koplinski, state Sen. Mike Stack, state Rep. Brandon Neuman and Bradford County Commissioner Mark Smith.

Incumbent Lt.Gov. Jim Cawley was the only Republican candidate to file.

Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run separately in the primary, but each party's nominees are joined in party tickets for the general election.

In other election activity, 16 congressional incumbents who are seeking re-election met their requirement — 1,000 voter signatures — as did more than two dozen candidates seeking to oust them or fill one of two vacancies.

The open seats are both in eastern Pennsylvania: the 6th District, where Republican Rep. Jim Gerlach is retiring at the end of this term, and the 13th District, which Schwartz is vacating to run for governor.

Hundreds of candidates filed for seats on the Democratic and Republican state committees that will be awarded on primary day. Each had to collect at least 100 signatures.

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