Ballot challenges continue with 2 more candidates booted

Sabriya Bilal, a school bus driver for the Philadelphia School District, wants to improve the city's representation in Harrisburg but admits she is still getting the hang of politics.  Commonwealth Court Senior Judge James Gardner Colins yesterday ordered her removed from the April 24 Democratic primary election ballot for not having enough valid signatures on her nominating petitions.

Bilal, who had hoped to challenge state Rep. Dwight Evans for the 203rd legislative district seat, was removed from the ballot last year for the same reason when she tried to run against City Councilwoman Marian Tasco.

"You learn as you go along," Bilal said after a court hearing. "I'm teaching myself."

Bilal collected 407 signatures on petitions to run against Evans, who challenged the validity of some of those names.  She conceded that 87 of the signatures were flawed and attorney Sam Stretton, working for Evans, challenged more during the hearing until Bilal had less than the 300 valid signatures needed to stay on the ballot.

Stretton, in a second hearing, also challenged the candidacy of Lamont Thomas, who is running against Evans and also ran against Tasco for City Council last year.  Stretton based that challenge on Thomas's residency. 

Thomas, a case manager for a social services agency, testified today that he moved into the 203rd District in March 2011 while he was running against Tasco from another address outside the district.  State law says a candidate must be a resident of the district for one year before the election.  Colins said he would rule by Friday on whether Thomas could remain on the ballot.

State Rep. Maria Donatucci appeared to have removed her two Democratic challengers from the ballot before two hearings today.  Candidate Norma McNeil, who works in human resources for a transportation company, stipulated that she had fewer than the 300 valid signatures needed to stay on the ballot for the 185th legislative district, according to court records.

An attorney representing candidate Fareeda Mabry also stipulated to that, court records show. But Mabry, who works for Universal Companies, showed up for her hearing today, saying she had not authorized her attorney to concede.  A court order showed she has been removed from the ballot.  The door to the courtroom where her hearing was to be held was locked.  Mabry left court without being heard.