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Sestak looks to keep Green Party candidate off ballot

Sestak looks to keep Green Party candidate off ballot

For the second time this cycle, Joe Sestak is trying to keep a potential spoiler candidate out of the electoral picture.

The Democratic Senate candidate on Monday filed a ballot challenge against Mel Packer, the Green Party candidate running against him and Republican Pat Toomey. The lawsuit in Commonwealth Court seeks to have Packer’s nominating petitions set aside.

As a liberal alternative to Sestak, Packer could presumably pull votes away from the Democrat in a close race against Toomey. Earlier this year, Sestak successfully kept businessman Joe Vodvarka off the primary ballot against Arlen Specter. In both cases, Sestak himself was the petitioner bringing the case. Politicians far more often put some public distance between themselves and the ballot challenge by having a supporter file on their behalf.

Packer could not immediately be reached for comment late Monday afternoon.

August 9, 2010 at 4:40 pm Staff

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comments [26] | post a comment

  1. Dan Gallagher

    Aug 9th, 2010

    Disappointing news. Though not unexpected. He’d be foolish not to challenge if all he cares about is winning. I just wish instead he’d care about not defrauding thousands of voters of their intention to have another voice in our government. Or make it even more painfully difficult and frustrating to put a 3rd party candidate on the ballot in the state of Pennsylvania.

  2. Matt

    Aug 9th, 2010

    There is no such thing as a spoiler candidate. In a democracy we should be embracing more voices, and chastising those who seek to silence a voice.

  3. PADemocraticVoter

    Aug 9th, 2010

    SHAME, SHAME, SHAME on Joe Sestak.

    I am a life long Democrat who until today was a strong Sestak supporter. I donated to his campaign, was working for him, and was planning to vote for him.

    But we need democracy in this state and country, not more bullies in government.

    If Sestak’s challenge stands and the Green Party candidate is removed, I WILL NOT be voting for Joe Sestak and a lot of other Democratic candidates will lose my vote because of him because I will be staying home in November.

    And I am pretty sure that a lot of other Democrats up here feel the same way.


  4. Sarah

    Aug 9th, 2010

    …and joe sestak would presumably pull votes away from mel. but that is the choice of the voters, not joe sestak. he is spoiling democracy and not getting any vote from me. you have to earn it, not bully it from me.

  5. ed cloonan

    Aug 9th, 2010

    Joe Sestak is just another example of our two party duopoly that serves the top 2%.Joe Sestak has been an ardent supporter of Afghanistan.The two party system needs challenged by candidates and policies that are not written/sponsored by/for corporations.Pennsylvania has the most regressive ballot access laws in the country written by and for the duopoly,

  6. David Diano

    Aug 9th, 2010

    Mel Packer and the Green Party have the ideals the Dems got elected to implement. But then political cowards (like Sestak) voted to fund the war they campaigned against.

    Sestak is showing once again that he can’t play and compete on an even playing field and let the voters decide.

    In his May victory speech, Sestak claimed “THIS” is what Democracy looks like. Well, challenging the Green Party candidate has nothing to do with Democracy.

  7. Ed Bortz

    Aug 9th, 2010

    Joe Sestak has used the repressive PA ballot access regime in an attempt to shutdown the Green Party’s peace, justice, environmental views…as well as deny the voters a progressive choice.

    More on PA’s Elaborate Scheme against Free and Fair Elections:

    Ed Bortz
    Green Party candidate for U.S. Congress
    District 14

  8. David Diano

    Aug 9th, 2010

    Because Sestak is not for peace, justice, the environment or a progressive philosophy.

  9. R. Rohrer

    Aug 9th, 2010

    What we need in PA is some sort of runoff elections so we don`t send off someone that got less than half the votes representing us. Third parties or more would be a welcome thing then.

    I would hate to see a extreme right winger win with less than 50% of the votes we just got rid of one in Little Ricky.

  10. David Diano

    Aug 9th, 2010

    R Rohrer-
    The rule is whoever gets the most votes.
    As for 50%…
    a lot of eligible voters aren’t even registered
    of the ones that are registers, less than 50% of them bother showing up for elections.

    So, pretty much every election is decided by 20% of the eligible voting population.
    Look at the 2008 Presidential election. The total number of votes was around 130 million and that was a high-turnout.

  11. Matt

    Aug 9th, 2010

    re: R. Rohrer,
    Many political parties support your idea. It is know as Instant Runoff Voting or FairVote, among other names. You can find out more about this concept which is very democratic at:

    and for the undemocratic ballot access laws, there is a group working to improve them:

    re: David D.,
    You make a good point. And that means that the Democrats could get plenty of votes from people who aren’t inspired enough to vote instead of taking away the vote from people who don’t want to vote Democrat.

  12. David Diano

    Aug 9th, 2010

    A Green Party candidate will bring out more liberals to the polls. So, even if they vote for Packer, they might decide to vote for Lentz and other Dems down ticket.

    St. Leg candidates should campaign on passing SB 252 to fix the petition process.

  13. bill healy

    Aug 10th, 2010

    Maybe Mel should have just followed the law and got the required number of legal registered voters to sign his petition we can’t people on the ballot who haven’t complied with the rules. When a candidate is short several thousand signatures and rushes a pile of petitions to the courthouse at the last second they are bound to be scrutinized.

  14. David Diano

    Aug 10th, 2010

    The “law” for third party candidates is inherently unfair and is the major party version of Jim Crow to discriminate against candidates.

    If Joe supports election ballot reform in PA then he “ethically” shouldn’t challenge on the basis of unfair ballot requirements. Joe is not obligated to challenge Packer.

  15. PADemocraticVoter

    Aug 10th, 2010

    Bill, there are PLENTY of fraudulent signatures on Democratic and Republican petitions.

    Sestak is a bully who sued to keep another Democrat off the ballot in the Spring. And this was kept pretty quiet so a lot of us voted for him without knowing what a bully he is.

    If Sestak can’t win on his own without bullying other candidates off the ballot he shouldn’t have run.

    As I said, I supported him after the primary but NO WAY will I vote Sestak after this and I am telling my Democrat friends to write in Arlen Specter. Better to throw away our vote than cast it for Sestak the Bully.

  16. Matt

    Aug 10th, 2010

    I was in the court, working on the challenge from 2006. I found valid name of people who had signed in good faith and their signatures were struck for reasons like:
    The state didn’t have a photograph of their signature to compare
    they made an honest mistake in the date or zip code
    they signed Bill when their registered name was William.
    Another reason it was handed in at the last minute is because the task is unbelievably immense and it is so easy to have valid signatures removed that you need to have even more.

    By contrast, Joe had to collect 2,000 signatures.

  17. sick of it all

    Aug 10th, 2010


    and as for those who talk about the number of signatures, Mr. Parker did not have to run in a party primary that cost $Millions and loads of time and effort and also get 2000 sigs…

    if u want to change the entire system then do so, but until then, the rules are the rules

  18. David Diano

    Aug 10th, 2010

    Meehan didn’t have a primary challenge.
    Why should he challenge Schneller to require more than the 1000 signatures he needed?

    The problem is that the requirement for number of valid signatures is not only unfair, but that perfectly valid signatures are routinely challenged (in bad faith) to overwhelm candidates who can’t afford to defend themselves. It’s guilty until proven innocent and the burden of proof rests on the accused, not the accuser.

    As for primaries: parties can decide who they want for a candidate, they don’t have to have primaries. The Dems and Reps don’t HAVE to have primaries. They can change their party rules and select the general election candidates by some other means.

    They can even place a candidate on the ballot if the primary winner is forced to drop out.

  19. charles

    Aug 11th, 2010

    Bill H., Sick of it,

    Mel Packer was not “thousands of signatures short”. He, and the Green Party, filed the required number of signatures, which were reviewed and accepted by the Bureau of Elections. The challenge is a cynical maneuver to attempt to invalidate enough of the signatures, usually on technicalities, in order to disqualify a candidate. This is legal, but is not in the interest of democracy, nor of voters. It demonstrates cowardice and unwillingness to address issues that are vital to many voters.

  20. charles

    Aug 11th, 2010

    Mel Packer did not run in a primary, because all but two parties are locked out of them. He did run for the nomination leading up to our Green Party of PA convention; he won the nomination with overwhelming support; he pulled together a campaign; and he mobilized volunteers across the state to put in thousands of hours on the streets collecting signatures; all without corporate cash.

  21. […] Sestak looks to keep Green Party candidate off ballot | // […]

  22. Disgusted

    Aug 16th, 2010

    As someone who had intended to vote 3rd party, this now kills it.

    Mr. Sestak, do you think I’m going to now vote for you just because there IS no longer a 3rd party? No way, no how. I’m staying home and will not vote – not for you, not for anyone!

  23. Michal

    Aug 22nd, 2010

    As a Green in New Mexico whose candidates were kept off the ballot simply by the clerk refusing to accept their valid and far higher in number than required signatures- our SoS has two competing laws to look at, one making us a major party and the other stripping us of our ballot status – guess which one she looked at even in the midst of a lawsuit in US District Court –
    I am very upset and feel for Mr. Packer.
    This happens to us everwhere but especially PA where minor parties have to pay the oppositions court costs, and we know the Dems have plenty of $$ to hire lots of lawyers and graphologists!! They did this to Romanelli and they did it to Nader. The Dems did this to Nader here in New Mexico too back in 2004. I attended the hearing where the Dems paraded a whole legion of lawyers and handwriting experts who sought to pick through and invalidate signatures because of the same reasons one poster listed above- Bill instead of William, leaving off NE from an address, putting an older address in before moving and refiling, having an illegible signature that strayed into another box, having a signature that wasn’t “cursive enough,” etc. Several people whose signatures were challenged were contacted afterward by the Nader folks and yes, they acknowledged they did sign the petition and were incensed that their names were struck for being “fraudulent.” It’s like this every – single- election.
    And this is the United States of America! We had 4400+ men and women die to bring multiparty democracy to the nation of Iraq while they can’t enjoy it at home!!

    Thanks Mr. Sestak, for making a mockery of democracy.
    He thinks he OWNS your vote, liberals and progressives,
    and now he EXPECTS you all to vote for him!!

  24. Norman UnPaul

    Sep 9th, 2010

    Green Party. What is green about it? It’s just a tea party without boxing gloves. Sarah hoarded them all. Get real, Depublicans and blue state dems, your days are numbered.

  25. Norman UnPaul

    Sep 9th, 2010

    Bully? Depublican’s filbustering every major
    piece of legislation that will get the economy moving much much faster and begin to make us competitive in the world in “green and renewable energy especially solar and wind energy, call them “depublicans”, because they are nothing about our republic, so stay home or write in someone who can never win and you just voted for the party of “no,” of nothing and of 8 more years of George W. including debt, housing bubbles and a war driven economy. Green Party? What’s Green about it?

  26. Tired of it

    Oct 4th, 2010


    And the Democrats have done what exactly? This is supposed to inspire us. We need a real democracy of the people not of the corporate monied interests! Free our elections, and lets have some real democracy for once!

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