Councilman booted off primary ballot

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Washington City Councilman Joseph Manning’s name will not appear on the primary election ballot later this month, but Manning has no plans to withdraw as a candidate for a second term on council.


Eleven signatures on Manning’s nominating petition were declared deficient Thursday by Washington County Judge Gary Gilman.


The 11 signatures had “fatal defects” such as the signer not being registered to vote or registered in another party that resulted in their invalidation. As a result, Manning, a Democrat, was one signature shy of having the required 100 names on his petition.


Manning was undeterred by the news when reached by telephone.


“My phone’s been blowing up since this thing started with people offering to help me,” he said. “So I feel confident I will win the write-in.”


Manning needs 100 write-in signatures in the spring primary in order to be placed on the November ballot.


Manning believes city voters will not have a choice in the November election if he is not in the race.


“Another candidate would not have to campaign or do any work, just be handed the position. I won’t stand for that happening,” he said.


No other Democrats are running for the council position, although Councilman Matt Staniszewski, a Republican, also isa write-in candidate on the Democrat side. Also running for election is newcomer Tracie Rotunda Graham, a Republican.


“I think this is an effort to disenfranchise a lot of the voters in the city of Washington,” Manning said. “Someone I’ve never met in my life tries to remove the only Democrat from the ballot.”


Candidates for Washington City Council must have at least 100 signatures on their nominating petitions in order to be placed on the election ballot.


Manning had 110 names on his petition. Of those, 14 signatures were challenged.


Mike Ward, of Pittsburgh, who is Graham’s nephew was in the courtroom Wednesday, along with Bernard J. Russell’s attorney. Russell, of 475 Allison Ave., is the man who challenged Manning’s nominating petition.


Ward is believed responsible for researching the names on the petition. He did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment Thursday.


Manning noted Ward is the son of Sen. Kim Ward, R-Greensburg. He said it was clear that someone was attempting to have infleunce on the city not only from outside the city but from outside the county.


Russell, too, was unavailable for comment but Colin Fitch, Manning’s attorney, noted that Russell has not voted in an election in years.


While Manning argued Russell did not have standing to file the petition and he was being used for political purposes, Gilman said that was not a reason to dismiss Russell’s challenger. In his ruling, Gilman cited a case where the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled the only requirements to file a challenge are being a registered voter in the district where the primary election is held and a member of the same political party.


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