Former U.S. Attorney Pat Meehan and state Attorney General Tom Corbett might be interacting a lot this campaign season - but probably not in a way that either Republican candidate had envisioned.
Corbett's office is expected to open an investigation into allegations that one of Meehan's nominating-petition circulators forged voters' names to help get Meehan on the ballot in Delaware County's 7th Congressional District race.
Meehan gave 20 petitions to county District Attorney G. Michael Green this month after the candidate uncovered evidence that longtime GOP activist Paul Summers had forged some of the signatures on petitions he purportedly circulated for Meehan in Upper Darby.
Green, who contributed $1,000 to Meehan's campaign last year, said yesterday that he had sent the case to Corbett's investigators.
"We've accepted the referral from District Attorney Green and will review the allegations," Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley said.
Democratic state Rep. Bryan Lentz, who is challenging Meehan for the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, is backing a court motion to have Meehan thrown off the ballot.
Lentz claims that many of the 3,627 signatures that Meehan gathered - including the more than 600 submitted by Summers - are defective or fraudulent and should be removed. Meehan's campaign says they have the 1,000 valid signatures needed to remain on the ballot. The case will be heard next month in Commonwealth Court.
Meehan spokesman Pete Peterson confirmed yesterday that Meehan and his wife had signed one of the petitions that Summers circulated. Peterson said Summers was present at the time.
Last week, several Upper Darby residents told the Daily News that someone else had signed their names on petitions that Summers submitted for Republican candidate Maureen Carey in the state House's 164th District.
"If there are additional complaints or allegations, then we'll be able to review those as well," Harley said.
Green's decision to refer the case to Corbett does not completely eliminate a potential conflict of interest. In 2008, Meehan's former gubernatorial political-action committee gave $2,000 to Corbett, who was running for a second term as attorney general.
Corbett is now running for governor, and Meehan has publicly endorsed him in that race.