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Schneller will be on the ballot; setback for Meehan

Schneller will be on the ballot; setback for Meehan

It’s officially a three-man contest in the 7th Congressional District.

A legal challenge seeking to keep independent Jim Schneller off the ballot was withdrawn from Commonwealth Court late Thursday, shortly after a judge issued a key ruling against supporters of Republican candidate Pat Meehan, whose campaign spearheaded the challenge. The resolution of the case in Schneller’s favor is a setback for Meehan, who now stands to lose at least some votes from a conservative who has dabbled in the so-called Birther movement and espouses many Tea Party ideals. And it’s a win for Democratic nominee Bryan Lentz, whose supporters helped Schneller get on the ballot in the hopes that he could siphon votes from Meehan in the contentious race.

“This is a victory for Pennsylvanians,” Schneller said, “this is a victory for all Americans who encourage and seek ballot access.”

James Colins, the Cozen O’Connor attorney representing Meehan’s camp, voiced dismayed by the outcome.

“I am disappointed with today’s rulings regarding the validity of Mr. Schneller’s petitions,” Colins said in a statement. “We pursued this case based on evidence that these petitions were not circulated in accordance with the law. The court has made its decision, and I respect that. However, I continue to believe that Mr. Schneller’s candidacy was disingenuously bolstered by Democrats, and he would not be on the ballot if it were not for a coordinated effort by the Lentz campaign.”

The significant help Schneller received from Lentz’s supporters only added bitterness to a race already filled with it. It also reignited an argument over nominating petitions that started in the spring, when Lentz’s campaign brought a ballot challenge alleging fraud in Meehan’s petitions. The challenge failed in court, but Meehan’s nominating petitions remain under investigation by the state attorney general’s office. Ever since then, the temperature in the state’s most competitive House race has remained red hot.

The withdrawal of the ballot challenge Thursday was brought about by a series of decisions by Commonwealth Court Judge Shelly Friedman earlier in the day. After Schneller seemed to imply to a local newspaper that his petitions had not been notarized in the presence of those who gathered the signatures as required by law, Meehan’s supporters were granted the right to take depositions—a relatively rare occurrence in ballot challenge cases. During those depositions, it was established that Lentz’s supporters did indeed witness notarization of the petitions, even though the notary public didn’t record them in her logbook as is required. Friedman ruled against the Meehan camp in deciding that those signatures were still valid.

Friedman also ruled that signers who gave the wrong municipality would still be counted, so long as the street address given matched the address at which they were registered.

After that, only the signatures of those who signed petitions for another candidate in the race, as well as other line-by-line challenges, remained to be litigated. The numbers—and the likelihood of getting Schneller under the required threshold—were not on Meehan’s side. So the challenge was withdrawn, canceling a hearing scheduled for Friday morning and closing the case.

Still, Meehan’s campaign continued to make its argument that Lentz played dirty.

“Jim Schneller’s candidacy has been nothing more than a deceitful and desperate attempt by Bryan Lentz to manipulate a race he is trailing in,” Meehan campaign manager Bryan Kendro said. “However, we respect the ruling of the court and do not feel it is a responsible use of taxpayer dollars and the court’s time to continue to pursue the challenge to Mr. Schneller’s petitions.”

Lentz’s campaign, for its part, continued to argue that the whole ordeal underscores an allegiance by Meehan to the conservative wing of his party.

“The Lentz campaign welcomes Jim Schneller to the race,” Lentz campaign manager Kevin McTigue said. “And while Jim Schneller and Pat Meehan battle for the support of the far-right, Bryan Lentz remains focused on growing the economy and job creation in the 7th district.”

This article has been updated with a comment from Schneller.

September 2, 2010 at 6:22 pm

--Dan Hirschhorn

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comments

comments [16] | post a comment

  1. Jimbo for Delco

    Sep 2nd, 2010

    The eagle has landed. March onward Jim. The great wind has carried you through.

  2. [...] Read the complete pa2010 story here: [...]

  3. 1994 Again

    Sep 3rd, 2010

    It’s both comical and sad that the Dems think this race will be close enough for Schneller to tip the scales toward Lentz. The national Dems are only paying lip service to this race and will not pour the kind of money into the district they need to win with Philly TV spots. Dem strategists are privately telling people this is a lost cause and resources should be spent elsewhere. Fun to watch, though.

  4. David Diano

    Sep 3rd, 2010

    1994-
    The Dems are definitely putting money into this race and Lentz. Lentz has already gotten high level attention and fundraising help. Schneller could get 2-5% of the vote. That is significant.

    Now that Lentz’s campaign manager has so publicly welcomed Schneller, I hope Lentz will invite him and Meehan to all debates.

  5. anon

    Sep 3rd, 2010

    Jim Schneller diligently collected more legitimate signatures himself than the entire Republican team this cycle, and rightly deserves a place on the ballot. His voice will be appreciated in ths debate, as the voters of the 7th seek to find a representative who will listen to the voters and not just the special interests.
    Congratulations to Jim for prevailing against the big money lawyers hired to defeat him.

  6. David Diano

    Sep 3rd, 2010

    The laws need to be updated so legitimate challengers don’t have to worry about being bled dry fighting frivolous (and in this case: hypocritical on Meehan’s part).

    As far as Meehan supporting deposing the circulators/notary for Schneller…
    …. does anyone know about depositions for Meehan’s petitions?

    Who trusts Corbett’s office to do a fair and timely investigation?

  7. sick of it all

    Sep 3rd, 2010

    interesting that this story broke before 6:22 p.m. yesterday but when I looked at the on-line local newspaper, I did not see an article on it….
    Schneller’s candidacy is devastating for Pat Meehan.

  8. [...] PA2010.com: Court dismisses challenge of Schneller signatures [...]

  9. Pat

    Sep 3rd, 2010

    Please, this is already the most over-hyped race of the year. A few hundred votes going to a crank stooge candidate are not going to affect the outcome of a race serious Democrsts have already written off.

  10. flynnbw

    Sep 3rd, 2010

    Now that all the petition and legal arguments are out of the way, it’s time to focus again on the crucial issues of economic recovery and job creation — especially after Labor Day, when people really start tuning in.

  11. Lana

    Sep 3rd, 2010

    Meehan is getting just a little of what he deserves I must say. How could he ever question anyone’s petitions? I know a girl that is a Democrat but dosen’t know anything about the party rules that circulated his petitions for the mobsters of the Upper Darby committee but not a damn thing was done.

    Who said The War Board was dead.?

    Bravo for the judge !

    Lets all back Bran Lentz and tell the War Board we just will not take it any more.

    Meehan was able to fix one judge but Friedman knew how to do the right thing. Justice was served for a change.

    Go Byran, We are all working for you as you should have had the seat four years ago. Remember those that asked you to step aside !

    Lentz for Congress, 2010

  12. MD

    Sep 4th, 2010

    YEA!!!! We can recruit clients who don’t agree with our point of views! YEA!!!!

    If this is the best you can do, you lose by 20 Dems.

    Sorry, 7 is flipping and it won’t be close.

  13. [...] their efforts proved unsuccessful is in the Pennsylvania 7th, where GOP nominee Pat Meehan will have to contend with teabagger Independent candidate Jim Schneller on the ballot. Meehan’s challenge to [...]

  14. Tom Pirro

    Sep 6th, 2010

    Jim Schneller is a ridiculous little man. This clown would have no business even running for mattress inspector.

  15. David Diano

    Sep 6th, 2010

    Tom-
    Maybe you should have Meehan use that argument during the three-way debates. It will go over well well when voters see how many political ideas, philosophies, and “solutions” that Schneller and Meehan share.

    Schneller could run on a platform of opposing Obama by claiming he’s a foreign born Muslim. That could get Schneller 25% of the GOP vote.

  16. NovaFan

    Sep 16th, 2010

    Sure, let Schneller debate. The more people hear him speak, the more chances to see how crazy he really is.

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