Lawsuit seeks to block T. Milton Street Sr. from challenging Nutter in primary

Seven minutes before Tuesday's 5 p.m. filing deadline, Mayor Nutter put himself squarely in the middle of an effort to prevent T. Milton Street Sr. from running against him in May's Democratic primary.

For weeks, the mayor has said remarkably little about Street's decision to challenge him, choosing instead to essentially ignore his only primary opponent.

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T. Milton Street, Sr. , who is challenging Michael Nutter for the Democratic mayoral nomination, faces a legal challenge to the signitures on his nominating petition.

But Nutter's campaign supporters apparently spent the past several days reviewing Street's nominating petitions line by line - and concluded in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that the brother of Philadelphia's former mayor is ineligible to run.

Some information was illegible, some incomplete, some included invalid dates, the suit alleges. Although Street said he submitted 2,408 signatures of registered Democratic voters, fewer than the required minimum of 1,000 are valid, according to the complaint.

Nutter's allies are prepared to hire a handwriting expert to prove that the people who circulated Street's petitions "created countless signatures in sequence themselves, with full pages in the same handwriting," the suit claims.

In an interview, Street dismissed the allegations and said he was a viable candidate. "Why would the mayor take a position where he is going to deny the voters a choice?" Street asked.

Also scrutinized was whether Street actually lives in Philadelphia. The City Charter requires mayoral candidates to live in the city for at least three years prior to the general election.

The complaint states that Street in fact was in a federal prison outside Philadelphia - in Kentucky - between 2008 and 2010, serving a sentence related to his conviction for tax evasion. Before that, Street lived with his girlfriend in Moorestown, N.J.

"That has nothing to do with my residence. It is a nonissue," added Street, who in recent weeks has said he is living in Mayfair.

The lawsuit was filed by three Democratic city residents: Olga A. McGarity, Tiffanie Standard and Shantel French. Nutter's campaign is paying the legal costs associated with the suit, to the Center City firm of Bowman Kavulich. The campaign also issued a statement about the lawsuit moments after the legal paperwork was filed.

"All candidates are held to certain requirements. The mayor is certainly following those requirements, so we should expect others to follow those requirements as well," said Nutter campaign spokeswoman Sheila Simmons.

Chris Brown, Street's campaign coordinator, said the allegations were false. "We have proof we have 2,500 signatures, and he does live in Philadelphia," said Brown, who noted that Street has been registered to vote in Philadelphia since 2004.

Among others facing primary ballot challenges as of Tuesday are two of Philadelphia's three election overseers.

In a flurry of late-filed lawsuits, political opponents of longtime Democratic City Commission Chairwoman Margaret Tartaglione argued that she should not be allowed to seek reelection because she participated in the city's DROP pension program.

Tartaglione collected $288,136 in 2008, a few months after she was reelected for a new four-year term.

She is the third candidate this year under political attack related to their participation in DROP. However, the other two - City Council members Marian B. Tasco, a Democrat from the 9th Council District, and Frank Rizzo, an at-large Republican - have yet to collect their DROP payments.

The suit against Tartaglione was filed by four people, including political activists Stanley Shapiro and Gloria Gilman. The firm handling the case, Spector Gadon & Rosen, is the same involved in the effort to toss Tasco from the ballot.

Tartaglione's Republican colleague, City Commissioner Joseph Duda, faces a court challenge for another reason.

One of his primary opponents, Al Schmidt, alleged that Duda should be ineligible to run because of multiple problems with his financial interest statement, including that Duda failed to disclose a Brigantine Shore home he owns. It is unclear whether that disclosure was required.

Tuesday was the deadline for filing legal papers to prevent candidates from running. Hearings regarding those challenges are set to begin Friday.

Schmidt also filed a suit against another of his opponents, James E. Mugford.

Other challenges filed Tuesday were against two at-large City Council Democratic candidates, Denise Ripley and Alexander Wilson; 7th Council District Democrat Juan Rodriguez; 9th Council District Democrats Rhaim Dawkins and Bobbie Curry; and eight candidates for Traffic Court.

 


Contact staff writer Marcia Gelbart at 215-854-2338 or mgelbart@phillynews.com.