Ori Feibush, the 29-year-old real estate whiz with a team of candidates hoping to to take over the committee posts in South Philly's 36th Ward, ran into trouble today as he tried to challenge other candidates seeking those positions.
The legal battle pits Feibush against former City Council President Anna Verna, 82, the Democratic leader of the 36th Ward for nearly four decades. Verna today said it was "quite evident" that Feibush is trying to take over the ward to use it as a base of power to challenge rookie City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson next year.
Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Charles Cunningham III this morning started dismissing Feibush's nomination petition challenges for committee candidates because they did not include a copy of the disputed petition.
Larry Otter, Feibush's attorney, said he will immediately appeal to state Commonwealth Court Cunningham's rulings, which he said impact "basically all" of Feibush's challenges in the 36th Ward.
"With all due respect to the judge, he's dead wrong," Otter said.
Cunningham based his ruling on an administrative order issued by the Court of Common Pleas for how nominating petition challenges should be formatted.
Otter said the state's Election Code does not require a copy of the petition in dispute to be included in such challenges. The state law supersedes the local order, Otter said.
Cunningham's rulings dismissed some challenges, even after attorneys for Feibush and Verna appeared to agree that they lacked the 10 valid signatures necessary to secure a spot on the May 20 primary election ballot.
"If I was Mrs. Verna here I would be embarrassed that my committee people submitted petitions that were fraudulent," Feibush said. "I would personally ask them to step aside."
Feibush said the vast majority of the 120 candidates he fielded for ward posts in the 36th, 30th and 48th wards in South Philly made it onto the ballot without being challenged. About 70 of those candidates are in the 36th ward.
Verna today said she believes Feibush does not want to become the 36th Ward leader.
Feibush, who has already rasied $101,000 to run for City Council, says he is focused on the legal challenges for now. He also says, "I'll never say never" when asked about a possible run for ward leader