This may be the cruelest season in politics, the period when legal challenges are filed to knock candidates off the ballot. Those challenges usually focus on three key issues: Are the signatures of registered voters on nominating petitions valid; did the petition circulators follow proper procedures; and did the candidate properly fill out a statement of financial interests?
Jack Morley Jr. went a different way. In challenging state Sen. Larry Farnese's bid for a second term, Morley instead focused on what he claims were a series of problems in campaign finance reports Farnese has filed since he won his first term in 2008. Farnese beat Morley, who was running as a Republican, that year by a margin of 81-19 percent. Morley has also lost bids for the 1st Senatorial District against its former seat holder, Vince Fumo, in 2004 as a Republican and in 2000 as a Democrat.
Farnese's attorney, David Senoff, today successfully argued in Commonwealth Court that Morley's challenge was based on issues that are not used to remove a candidate from the ballot. It didn't help that Morley failed to property serve a copy of the legal challenge to Farnese, as the court requires.
Senior Judge Rochelle Friedman told Morley his challenge focuses on the wrong issues and the wrong year, noting that state law provides for voters to seek audits of campaign finance reports and that the state Attorney General's Office or local District Attorney's Office can investigate.
"The statutes afford you a remedy," she said, ruling that Farnese would remain on the April 24 Democratic primary election ballot. "You didn't take advantage of it. And you can't do so here."
The battle resumes in court Thursday when Farnese's legal challenges for Morley's nominating petitions are heard in a hearing. And Morley vows to appeal today's ruling to the state Supreme Court.