State Rep. Louise Williams Bishop, who is seeking a 13th two-year term to represent the 192nd Legislative District, will remain on the April 24 Democratic primary election ballot despite admitting in testimony Monday that she signed as the circulator on some nominating petitions that were really circulated by a friend. Commonwealth Court Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer ruled this afternoon that Bishop could withdraw those petition pages, which still left her with enough valid signatures to stay on the ballot.
Four witnesses, all Bishop supporters, testified Monday that another person presented them with a nominating petition to sign for the 78-year-old legislator, who is also a radio show host and minister. Bishop testified that she and a friend drove around her district with the petitions. The friend would get out of the car to seek signatures while Bishop stayed in the car, she said.
"It was hard getting up all those steps all of the time," Bishop testified, adding that this was the first time she had circulated her own petitions and thought there was nothing wrong with their actions. "I never thought about it. We've always done this."
Jubelirer took note of the argument from attorney Sam Stretton, who represented Bishop and said she had not knowingly violated state election law. A 2001 state Supreme Court case makes clear that the person who circulates a nominating petition must sign as a circulator but that language is not as clear on the affidavit candidates must file that says they have not violated any election law, Stretton said.
"When you've been around that long, you have to know how to do this," countered attorney Larry Otter, who represented William Collins III, the campaign treasurer for Bishop's primary challenger, Will Mega. "It's just that simple."
UPDATE: 5:25 pm: Mega has taken to his Facebook page to denounce the ruling and vow an appeal to the state Supreme Court. He wrote: "My 80 year old & 24 year incumbent admits to fruad (sic) and breaking the law, but the judge still rules in her favor. I'm appealing the decision. Justice has to be served."