City council ballot dispute continues with hearing Wednesday

April 29, 2013

A Commonwealth Court judge determined Washington County Court must hold a hearing on the merits of a ballot challenge filed last month against Washington Councilman Joseph Manning, who is seeking a second, four-year term.

Bernard J. Russell of Washington claims Manning does not have enough valid signatures on his Democratic nominating petitions.

Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia A. McCullough vacated a ruling of Washington County Judge Gary Gilman, who had dismissed the case on procedural grounds, sending the matter back to him.

“Given the time constraints inherent in election cases, the trial court is directed to conduct a hearing and render its opinion on the merits no later than” Friday, McCullough ordered.

Gilman has scheduled a hearing for 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Russell’s ballot challenge, filed within a legally allotted time period in March, languished in Washington County Court until Manning sought to have it dismissed in early April and Gilman agreed.

Russell then appealed the matter to Commonwealth Court, which ruled Friday.

Manning is the only Democrat to file for City Council on a ballot where two are to be nominated, a situation that also occurred when Manning was seeking his first term.

Republicans who filed are incumbent Matt Staniszewski and Tracie Rotunda Graham. Campaign materials show that Staniszewski is running a Democratic write-in.

“In 2009, I received the Democratic nomination along with Councilman Manning, and I hope for the same in 2013,” Staniszewski wrote in response to an email. Graham did not respond to a similar inquiry about whether she intends to seek a Democratic write-in.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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