A simmering court battle that pits two presidential campaigns against each other in Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court could jump to the forefront of the national race Wednesday. Or it could become a footnote, overshadowed by the Republican primaries Tuesday night in Florida, Ohio, Illinois, North Carolina, Missouri and the North Mariana Islands.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is challenging Ohio Gov. John Kasich's right to be on Pennsylvania's April 26 primary ballot. A Rubio supporter, who also is a University of Pennsylvania student, has challenged Kasich’s nomination petitions, arguing he didn't get the required 2,000 signatures.
But if either man loses in his home state Tuesday, experts say, they would be more likely to drop out of the race, rendering the case moot in the realm of national politics.
Even then, however, the case could continue and take on a different significance — setting a precedent in state election law.
The Rubio supporter is expected to file a brief Wednesday that will help set that avenue in motion. In contention is the timing of the petition challenge by the Penn student, Nathaniel Rome.
Rome filed his lawsuit at 5:13 p.m. on Feb. 23. State election code allows challenges to be filed up to seven days from the petitions filing deadline — which this year was 5 p.m., Feb. 16.
Kasich’s attorney, Larry Otter, has argued that Rome's lawsuit was filed 13 minutes too late.
Pennsylvania Election Code does not state an exact time on the seventh day for filing a challenge. But it does say the office accepting challenges will be open only from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Otter has previously said that Rome was able to file a challenge after 5 p.m. because someone in the office opened the locked front door.
Rome’s attorney, John Bravacos, was not able to comment Monday night on the case. Otter said Monday that he is so confident that the candidate would be on the ballot next month that “I’m buying him a cheesesteak when he comes to Philadelphia.”