Diven, Motznik challenge each other's election petitions

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It was bound to happen.

City Councilman Jim Motznik -- who is battling his former boss Michael Diven for an open district justice seat in the city's South Hills -- filed court papers today challenging Mr. Diven's nomination petitions, and Mr. Diven turned around and did the same to his former chief-of-staff.

The pair is running for the Democratic nod for the 19th Ward seat held by retiring District Justice Charles McLaughlin and today is the deadline for filing court challenges to nomination petitions and signatures. Theirs are two of dozens of election challenges filed today in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, before hearings are held next week.

To make it on the May 19 ballot, district justice candidates need 100 signatures from registered voters who live in the district, which in this case covers parts of Brookline, Beechview, Mount Washington and Duquesne Heights. In the filings, Mr. Motznik claims that almost 100 of Mr. Diven's 195 nominations signatures are invalid. Mr. Diven claims that Mr. Motznik did not establish residency in the district.

After Mr. Diven won the District 4 City Council election in 1997, he named Mr. Motznik as his chief of staff. After he moved on to the state Legislature in 2000, he supported Mr. Motznik's council candidacy, even though he was running against his cousin, Amy Barrett-Montgomery.

Mr. Motznik, a Democrat, thereupon supported Mr. Diven when he switched his registration to Republican run for a state Senate seat in 2005 -- and almost lost his council seat the same year. The pair had a falling-out in 2006, when Mr. Motznik supported fellow Democrat Chelsa Wagner in her winning bid against Mr. Diven's 22nd District House seat.

Now, Mr. Diven has switched back to the Democratic Party and is seeking the nomination for district justice.

A political consultant to Mr. Diven pleaded guilty last year to forging petition signatures in that 2006 race, and was sentenced to two years' probation and a $10,000 fine. Another aide admitted to signing petitions that she had not circulated and entered an alternative sentencing program.


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