For John Kasich, a battle over signatures to appear on Pa. primary ballot
An objector claims the Ohio governor lacks the needed signatures, but Kasich claims the objection came 13 minutes too late.
March 9, 2016 5:42 PM
John L. Russell/Associated Press
Ohio Gov. John Kasich needs 2,000 signatures to appear on the Pennsylvania primary ballot. Mr. Kasich says he has 2,184, but an objector claims 192 of those are invalid. Mr. Kasich's lawyers say the objection was filed 13 minutes past 5 p.m. Both sides appealed Wednesday in Commonwealth Court.
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau
HARRISBURG — Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s own lawyer agrees the presidential campaign submitted fewer valid signatures than are required for the candidate to appear on Pennsylvania’s primary ballot. But he argued in court Wednesday that it doesn’t matter because an objection to Mr. Kasich’s nominating petitions was filed 13 minutes too late.
At issue is whether challenges to Pennsylvania nominating petitions are due by 5 p.m. or 11:59 p.m. on the last day to file.
Attorneys for Mr. Kasich and the objector have stipulated that the campaign filed no more than 2,184 signatures with the state, and that 192 of those signatures were not valid. Republican and Democratic candidates for president must submit 2,000 signatures to appear on the ballot.
But the objection to Mr. Kasich’s nominating petition was filed at 5:13 p.m. on the last day to challenge nominating petitions, and his attorney argues that makes it 13 minutes too late to be considered. The objector’s attorney disagrees, saying there is no requirement that the filing be received by 5 p.m.
Both sides appeared Wednesday in Commonwealth Court, where Judge Bonnie Leadbetter said the matter may go to a three-judge panel. She set deadlines of next Monday and Wednesday for additional briefs.
Judge Leadbetter said the case is “a matter of significance,” because Mr. Kasich is running for president and because there does not appear to be a legal precedent determining whether the deadline is 5 p.m. or midnight.
Lawrence Otter, the attorney for Mr. Kasich, said nominating petitions must be received no later than 5 p.m. on the due date, and that the 5 p.m. deadline begins the seven-day period for filing objections.
“A full seven days is 5 o’clock, seven days later,” he said.
John Bravacos, the attorney for objector Nathaniel Rome, said the General Assembly could have set the deadline for challenges for 5 p.m., but instead did not specify a time.
Mr. Bravacos is the brother of Chris Bravacos, who chairs Sen. Marco Rubio campaign’s efforts in Pennsylvania. A website titled Pennsylvania Students for Rubio bears the name of a Nathaniel Rome.
The Wednesday deadline for the final additional filing is one day after the presidential primary elections in Florida, Mr. Rubio’s state, and Ohio, Mr. Kasich’s state.
Mr. Otter and John Bravacos said the case could go to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
If the courts find the objection was filed on time, Mr. Otter said, Mr. Kasich “has a problem.”
A spokesman for the Kasich campaign said Mr. Kasich will prevail.
“We are 100 percent confident that we will be on the ballot in Pennsylvania,” said spokesman Rob Nichols.
If New York businessman Donald Trump does not sweep the Ohio and Florida primaries next week, the April 26 Pennsylvania primary could become more important, said Terry Madonna, director of the Franklin and Marshall College Poll and longtime observer of state politics.
Typically, campaigns get twice as many nominating signatures as are required, Mr. Madonna said. From the signatures on file at the Department of State, the Rubio campaign appears to have more than cleared that mark.
Mr. Nichols said the Kasich campaign gathered enough signatures.
“We submitted well in excess of the necessary number of signatures in Pennsylvania, a fact that was certified by the Pennsylvania secretary of state,” Mr. Nichols said. “If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for us.”
On Thursday, the Commonwealth Court is scheduled to hear a petition opposing Sen. Ted Cruz’s place on the Pennsylvania ballot, on the grounds that Mr. Cruz is not eligible to serve as president because he was born in Canada.
Karen Langley: firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-787-2141 or on Twitter @karen_langley
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