Petition snafu dooms Payton's place in House

City Coun­cil­man Bri­an O’Neill (left) en­dorsed Dave Kralle in the primary and spe­cial elec­tions in the 169th Le­gis­lat­ive Dis­trict dur­ing a March 22 news con­fer­ence out­side the coun­cil­man’s dis­trict of­fice in Bustleton, Phil­adelphia, Pa. (Tom War­ing)


State Rep. Tony Payton, whose nom­in­at­ing pe­ti­tions were be­ing chal­lenged by a sup­port­er of his primary op­pon­ent, ab­ruptly with­drew from the race last week.

“I with­drew will­ingly. This pro­cess is costly,” he said.

Payton (D-179th dist.) was be­ing chal­lenged in the April 24 primary by James “Scoot” Clay.

The in­cum­bent filed 1,854 sig­na­tures, well above the min­im­um of 300.

Some 1,714 of those sig­na­tures, though, were chal­lenged by a 23rd Ward Demo­crat­ic com­mit­tee­wo­man named Dor­is John­son.

Sig­na­tures by people who were not Demo­crats liv­ing in the dis­trict were easy to throw out dur­ing a two-day hear­ing in Com­mon­wealth Court. If a name on the sheet didn’t ex­actly match the name on a voter-re­gis­tra­tion card, it was dis­qual­i­fied.

Payton was hop­ing for a lib­er­al, rather than strict, in­ter­pret­a­tion of a voter’s in­tent.

For in­stance, vo­lun­teers col­lect­ing pe­ti­tions filled in the date in case the voter for­got, “which is a mis­take,” Payton ac­know­ledged. Those pe­ti­tions were tossed.

Payton will serve out the rest of his term. He will not mount a write-in cam­paign in the primary, nor will he seek to run as an in­de­pend­ent or a mem­ber of an­oth­er party.

“I ac­cept that. It’s nobody’s fault but mine. I’m mov­ing on,” he said.

What are his plans after leav­ing of­fice at the end of the year?

“To be de­term­ined,” he said.

The dis­trict in­cludes Ox­ford Circle, North­wood and Frank­ford.

Payton, 31, said he ap­pre­ci­ated the op­por­tun­ity to serve. He has fo­cused on im­prove­ments to play­grounds, schools and Aria Hos­pit­al-Frank­ford.

Back in 2006, he was one of four Demo­crats to file seek­ing to re­place vet­er­an Rep. Bill Rieger.

The oth­er three can­did­ates were re­moved from the bal­lot, but Demo­crats sup­por­ted a write-in cam­paign by Emilio Vazquez, who had the ori­gin­al en­dorse­ment.

Payton ini­tially pre­vailed by 19 votes, but a Com­mon Pleas Court judge handed Vazquez the vic­tory by al­low­ing 52 write-in votes for him that were mis­takenly cast for com­mit­tee­man.

In the end, Com­mon­wealth Court over­ruled that de­cision, and the Pennsylvania Su­preme Court de­clined to hear an ap­peal.

This year, Clay, 32, had the back­ing of ward lead­ers Vazquez, Dan Sav­age and Bill Dol­bow.

“I’m sur­prised that a sit­ting state rep couldn’t se­cure three-hun­dred sig­na­tures,” Sav­age said.

Clay, whose moth­er Frances was pres­id­ent of the Frank­ford Civic As­so­ci­ation, gave up a job as a courtroom aide to make the run for of­fice.

“It feels good, but I’ve still got to get out and do the work,” he said. “I plan to keep do­ing it un­til I get to Har­ris­burg. I’m here to serve the people of the 179th dis­trict. That’s the reas­on I’m run­ning. I’m go­ing to do the best I can.”


In an­oth­er pe­ti­tion chal­lenge, Demo­crat Numa St. Louis will stay on the 202nd Le­gis­lat­ive Dis­trict bal­lot after a court dis­missed an ob­jec­tion from his primary op­pon­ent, 38-year in­cum­bent Rep. Mark Co­hen.


Dave Kralle, a Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ate in the 169th Le­gis­lat­ive Dis­trict, was en­dorsed last week by City Coun­cil­man Bri­an O’Neill (R-10th dist.).

The an­nounce­ment came out­side the Bustleton Av­en­ue Mu­ni­cip­al Build­ing, where O’Neill has a dis­trict of­fice.

On April 24, Kralle faces Demo­crat Ed Neilson in a spe­cial elec­tion and John Mc­Cann in a primary. The seat has been va­cant since Re­pub­lic­an Denny O’Bri­en joined City Coun­cil at the be­gin­ning of the year.

Kralle, 25, worked 10 years for O’Bri­en, start­ing as an in­tern while he was a stu­dent at Arch­bish­op Ry­an High School, then mov­ing to his cam­paign staff and fi­nally to his of­fice while in col­lege.

“He’s a great can­did­ate,” said O’Neill, who lives in the 169th. “Dav­id has grown in­to a pas­sion­ate speak­er. He’s in­to all the is­sues and knows how people feel about them. He hits the ground run­ning go­ing in­to the state House.”


Patrick Murphy, a Demo­crat­ic can­did­ate for state at­tor­ney gen­er­al, last week was en­dorsed by five labor uni­ons.

Lin­ing up be­hind Murphy were the Pennsylvania State Edu­ca­tion As­so­ci­ation, Har­ris­burg-based AF­SCME Coun­cil 13, AF­SCME Dis­trict Coun­cil 47, Fay­ette County-based United Mine Work­ers of Amer­ica Dis­trict 2 and the Pennsylvania As­so­ci­ation of Staff Nurses and Al­lied Pro­fes­sion­als.

Mean­while, Murphy began run­ning a cam­paign tele­vi­sion com­mer­cial in the Pitt­s­burgh me­dia mar­ket. The 30-second spot makes no men­tion of his two terms in Con­gress, though it shows him pic­tured with Pres­id­ent Barack Obama.

The ad notes his dad’s 22 years as a po­lice of­ficer and de­scribes the can­did­ate as a hus­band, fath­er, Army para­troop­er and West Point law pro­fess­or.

An an­noun­cer says, “As at­tor­ney gen­er­al, he’ll en­force the law fairly to pro­tect the rights of work­ers, our en­vir­on­ment and pro­tect a wo­man’s right to choose.”

Murphy also at­ten­ded last week’s Lawn­crest Com­munity As­so­ci­ation meet­ing. He faces former Lack­awanna County As­sist­ant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Kath­leen Kane in the primary.

The Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ate is Cum­ber­land County Dis­trict At­tor­ney Dav­id Freed.


The Loy­al Op­pos­i­tion of Phil­adelphia, the Phil­adelphia Fed­er­a­tion of Young Re­pub­lic­ans, Temple Uni­versity Col­lege Re­pub­lic­ans and the Phil­adelphia Re­pub­lic­an Lead­er­ship Coun­cil are spon­sor­ing a for­um with the five GOP can­did­ates for U.S. Sen­ate on Wed­nes­day, April 4, from 6:30 to 9 p.m., in the Lin­coln Room of the Uni­on League, at 140 S. Broad St.

Dom Giord­ano, a morn­ing host on WPHT (1210 AM), will mod­er­ate a dis­cus­sion among Dav­id Chris­ti­an, Sam Rohr­er, Marc Scaringi, Tom Smith and Steve Welch.

Ad­mis­sion is free. Men must wear a suit, and wo­men must wear pro­fes­sion­al cloth­ing. There will be a cash bar.

The Re­pub­lic­an nom­in­ee will face the win­ner of the Demo­crat­ic primary between Sen. Bob Ca­sey Jr. and Joseph Vod­varka. ••


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