Challenges were filed this week attempting to remove several candidates from the ballot in the upcoming primary election, including two Republicans running for Washington County commissioner.
Tuesday was the final day to file petitions in which registered voters can request a court hearing to challenge aspects of a candidate’s nominating papers to get on the ballot for the May 16 primary.
Ashley Duff and Kevin Redford were among six Republican candidates who filed paperwork to run in the primary for Washington County Board of Commissioners, but both of their petitions are being challenged by Nottingham Township resident Sandra Schiffauer, albeit for very different reasons.
Schiffauer’s petition filed on her behalf by Pittsburgh attorney James Walsh argues that Duff made “misleading and incorrect” statements in her nominating papers by claiming to hold the professional occupation as a “home economist.” Duff’s statement of financial interests paperwork in her filing listed no direct income above the $1,300 reporting threshold, which Schiffauer’s petition argues proves she could not hold a professional occupation.
“As Candidate Duff does not meet any of the qualification for having a profession, an occupation, or a job, she misleads the individuals who signed her nomination petitions into believing that she was employed, that she had a job, profession, or an occupation, when she in fact did not, as she admits that she was not paid,” the petition states.
The role of “home economist” does appear in various internet job listings, with the work specializing in dietetics, food, nutrition and other home care specialties, some of which require higher education degrees.
“In short Candidate Duff created confusion with her petitions that undermined the truth that she is in fact unemployed,” the petition challenging Duff’s candidacy states. “Lying about one’s profession, on their petitions, is a fatal defect that requires that Candidate Duff be removed from the ballot.”
Duff, of Fallowfield Township, said Wednesday she was aware of the challenge but had not yet had an opportunity to review the filing to comment specifically on its merits.
“I will say that it is a sad day in Washington County and America for women and men who have chosen to stay home to educate and raise their children,” Duff said in a written statement. “I find it insulting that the political elite feel the need to attack that extremely honorable and difficult decision.”
Schiffauer is also challenging the candidacy of Redford, claiming he does not have enough valid signatures to run for Washington County commissioner. The petition challenge, which was filed by attorney Sean Logue, who also serves as chairman of the Washington County Republican Party, claims that 244 out of the 415 voter signatures that Redford received can’t be accepted due to various flaws. If all of them in question were thrown out, that would leave Redford with 171 signatures – nearly 80 shy of the 250 needed to get on the ballot.
Redford, of North Strabane, said during a phone interview Wednesday that he thinks the challenge stems from some voters using their postal address city rather than their hometown municipality – such as writing down McMurray instead of Peters Township – when filling out their names on the circulating petition. He said he’s confident he’ll remain on the ballot once a judge reviews the signatures and petitions during a hearing next week.
“I think it’s a cheap political practice to rob voters of a choice,” Redford said of the challenge. “The intent of the voter is there.”
The only other countywide candidate being challenged is Kevin Hill, a Republican from Mt. Pleasant Township running for prothonotary. West Pike Run Township resident Laura Hough, who is the current prothonotary and running for reelection in the Republican primary, filed the challenge petition with Jacklyn Avolio of Independence Township.
The petition, which also was filed with Logue listed as the attorney, claims Hill wrote his profession as “self-employed,” despite previous statements that he is unemployed. Hill declined comment Wednesday, but said he plans to defend his petition at a hearing next week.
The challenges will be heard Tuesday by Senior Judge Katherine Emery, who will rule on each of them to determine whether or not the candidates should remain on the ballot.
Several people running for local office also are having their petitions challenged.
Steven Toprani, a Republican from Monongahela running as a cross-filed candidate for Ringgold School Board, is being challenged by Nottingham Township resident Paula Harshaw, who claims Toprani erroneously circulated his own Democratic candidate petitions despite being a member of the other party. However, it’s not known if Harshaw’s challenge will be considered during next week’s hearing since she is a registered Republican and challenging Toprani’s nomination on the Democratic side. School board candidates are permitted to cross-file in their run for office in the primary.
David Carlise, who filed paperwork to run for Hopewell Township supervisor in the Republican primary, is being challenged by Mary Rush, who claims he did not file the proper ethics and financial interest statements with the township.
For Donora Borough Council, Democratic candidates James Brice and Deanne Vayansky Pavelko are being challenged over claims they did not file their financial interest statements with the borough. Republican candidate Casey Perrotta also is being challenged for not filing the financial interest statement with the borough, while the petitioners also claiming he should not be permitted to hold public office because he was accused of forging documents related to psychological examinations while working as a Greene Regional police officer. Perrotta pleaded guilty in Greene County to two misdemeanor counts of tampering with public records and was sentenced in April 2021 to serve two years on probation and perform 60 hours of community service.
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