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District court ballot trimmed

| Friday, March 23, 2007

PITTSBURGH -...Half of the 12 candidates running to succeed Ernest Marraccini - a former Elizabeth Township district judge who obstructed an FBI investigation - have dropped out of the race or were thrown off the ballot because of filing problems.

Candidates George Hobaugh, Brian A. Merten, Darla J. Poorman and Robert W. Similo have withdrawn petitions, officials said.

A judge removed Dennis M. Pohodich and Bonnie Martin Neander from ballots because challengers found errors in their petitions.

Six names will appear on Democratic ballots in May: Mary H. Levdansky, Patrick McDaniel, Dale T. Provins Sr., Beth Scagline-Mills, Michael Alan Shuey and Jace M. Younge. Each candidate, except Shuey, also will run as a Republican.

The district encompasses Elizabeth and West Elizabeth boroughs and Elizabeth and Forward Townships.

Overall, only two in the field of 12 have not had their petitions challenged.

They disavowed their campaigns of any involvement in the challenges.

Pat McDaniel, one of two candidates not challenged, issued a statement.

"In that my petitions and those of one other candidate were the only petitions not to be challenged, I think it is necessary to alleviate any perception or speculation that I, or anyone affiliated with me, had anything whatsoever to do with the filing of these objections," McDaniel said.

"Upon review, I found that, while some of the challenges, if true, have merit, the majority are petty, and in those cases even if they violate the precise letter of the law, fall far short of violating the spirit of the law. To me, these challenges are nothing more than a spiritless attempt to put down the opposition and deprive the voters of the opportunity to make a free choice for their district judge."

The other unchallenged candidate, Beth Scagline-Mills, said she was not involved in the challenges and did not ask the two petitioners to file the objections.

In the challenges filed last week, either Robin Miller, of Elizabeth Borough, or Del Grimes, of Elizabeth Township, or both, were listed as the petitioners. Their court documents give no indication of their interest in the race.

The petition originally challenged Levdansky's candidacy. But Levdansky said the challenge was withdrawn.

In the Levdansky petition, the waiver of her expense account report was challenged. Candidates are not required to file campaign expense reports if they sign waivers indicating they will spend less than $250 on their campaign.

Levdansky claimed her greatest expense was the $100 fee to cross file.

Marraccini's office has been marked by controversy.

He pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to obstruction of justice for instructing someone to lie to a grand jury about a bribe.

The state Court of Judicial Discipline reprimanded Marraccini in October after he was accused of calling a group of defendants "morons."

Marraccini resigned in December.

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