The Lead

W.Pa. House candidate will stay on the primary ballot, state court judge rules

By: - March 28, 2020 8:43 am

By Charlie Deitch

PITTSBURGH — Despite striking the majority of her petition signatures, a Commonwealth Court Judge ruled late Friday that a controversial state House candidate will remain on the June 2 Primary ballot.

Democrat Heather Kass is one of two candidates running to replace veteran state Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Allegheny, in Pittsburgh’s 36th House District.

Her campaign polarized local party activists when the Allegheny County Democratic Party voted to endorse her candidacy, despite a history of questionable social media posts. Jessica Benham, a disability rights advocate, is also seeking the Democratic nomination.

A local voter, Thomas Wagner, filed the suit challenging the validity of about 360 of the 642 signatures on the nominating petitions that Kass filed with the Department of State.

Some of those signatures were challenged because they were circulated by a person who is not a registered Democrat and many others were challenged for various reasons, including faulty addresses and information being added in by persons other than the signatory.

Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Patty McCullough found that more than half of the signatures that Kass collected — 336 of them — were invalid for various reasons. McCullough ruled the 306 remaining signatures were valid — that’s six more than the 300 required to stay on the ballot.

“Candidate has 306 valid signatures, which is in excess of the required 300 signatures. … The Petition to Set Aside the Nomination Petition of Heather Kass is denied. The Secretary of the Commonwealth is directed to certify Heather Kass as a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for Representative in the 36th Legislative District, in the primary election to be held on April 28, 2020,” McCullough wrote in her ruling.

Charlie Deitch is the editor of the Pittsburgh Current, where this story first appeared.

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