Ballot challenges filed in state House races

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Candidates Dr. Valerie Arkoosh, left, State Sen. Daylin Leach, center, and State Rep. Brendan Boyle, right, pause at the start of the 13th U.S. Congressional District Democratic Forum at the Upper Dublin Township Building in Fort Washington, Pa. on January 26, 2014. ( DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer )

Legal challenges are being filed today to knock candidates for state General Assembly off the May 20 Democratic primary ballot in Philadelphia. The deadline to file the challenges is 5 p.m. today. It could be a busy time in Commonwealth Court, with three state senators and 14 state representatives with districts that include the city facing primary challenges.

The challenges include:

  • A voter in state Rep. Brendan Boyle's 170th District in Northeast Philly claims that 833 of the 1,052 signatures he submitted are invalid.  State representatives need 300 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.  Voter Michelle Szydlowski's filing claims that 833 of the signatures were on pages notarized by Boyle's assistant chief of staff, Nicholas Himebaugh, violating a state law that says a notary can't have a direct or "pecuniary" interest in the transaction.  Boyle is also running for the 13th District of the U.S. House, which covers part of Philadelphia and Montgomery County, in the primary election.  Boyle spokesman Ken Snyder dismissed the challenge as a "nuisance."
  • Three voters are going to challenge the nominating petitions and statement of financial interests filed by former state Rep. Babette Josephs, who is seeking to reclaim the 182nd District seat she lost in 2012 to state Rep. Brian Sims. The voters, including Duncan Black who blogs as "Atrios" at eschatonblog, claim that 480 of the 599 signatures filed by Josephs are invalid, including 231 that include "information that appears to have been provided by someone other than the signer." The voters also claim that Josephs incorrectly listed her occupation as "attorney-advocate" since she voluntarily placed herself on the Pennsylvania Bar Association's "inactive" list in March 2012. And they claim she failed to list her ownership in an Oregon-based investment business. Josephs said she needs to speak to her attorney about those allegations.
  • Sean Stevens, who today said he is withdrawing as a candidate for the 194th District, which runs from East Falls to Roxborough, challenged the residency of incumbent state Rep. Pam DeLissio.  Stevens claims DeLissio has received a homestead exemption for property taxes on a condo in Harrisburg each year since she bought it in 2009, making that her real residence.  She also has owned a condo in her district since 1997 and has not applied for the city's new homestead exemption for that property. DeLissio today said she considers her Philadelphia address her true residency and noted the homestead exemption in Harrisburg has been worth $70 or less each year that she received it.  She also said her driver's license, renewed in 2010 and up for renewal this year, has listed her Harrisburg address.
  • State Rep. Mark Cohen's nominating petitions are being challenged by his primary opponent, Jared Solomon, in Northeast Philly's 202nd District.  Solomon claims that Cohen did not reach 300 valid signatures because some of the pages were incomplete and others were notarized by Phyllis Swing, an employee in his legislative office.

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