Controller candidate Rob Bowers booted from ballot for photocopied petitions

An example of a page of nomination petition signatures submitted by Rob Bowers (left) and an apparent photocopy that was also submitted as separate signatures.

It’s known as a “kitchen table job” in Philadelphia politics: One person sits down and creates a raft of the signatures candidates for public office need on their nomination petitions.

Something different surfaced Tuesday at City Hall.

Call it a photocopy job.

Rob Bowers, a former assistant treasurer for the City of Philadelphia, filed to run as an independent for city controller in the Nov. 7 general election.

Bowers on Tuesday submitted 139 pages of petitions, with 30 lines of signatures each, for a total of 4,170 signatures.

He needed 4,075 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.

But something about Bowers’ nomination petitions seemed off.  Fifty-two of the 139 pages, with 1,560 signatures, appeared to be photocopies of other petitions he submitted.

The candidate, who signed each of the 139 pages attesting he circulated petitions, pleaded ignorance Wednesday when asked about the photocopies.

“I had a lot of people working for me, last minute, on the petitions,” Bowers said. “I didn’t know there was anything photocopied.”

The city commissioners, who oversee elections in Philadelphia, told Bowers on Wednesday afternoon that his petitions had been rejected for the photocopies.

“I’ve seen a lot of petitions, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Al Schmidt, vice chairman of the city commissioners.

Bowers, 36, was assistant treasurer for nearly two years, under former Mayor Michael A. Nutter and Mayor Kenney. He left the city payroll in August 2016 and now lists his occupation as a quality-control chemist for a local pharmaceutical company.

He has until Tuesday to appeal the city commissioners’ action to Commonwealth Court. On Wednesday, he said an appeal was unlikely.

The Democratic nominee is Rebecca Rhynhart, who in the May 16 primary election defeated City Controller Alan Butkovitz’s bid for a fourth term. The Republican nominee is Mike Tomlinson.