Petition Challenges: Fay Dawson knocked out of the race, more could follow

Dwight Knox is the man whose signature ended Fay Dawson’s run for city council.

Dawson was one of ten Democratic candidates seeking the Eighth District council nomination on May 17.

Her nominating petition signatures were challenged, which triggered the line-by-line verification of the names.

So, when Common Peas Court Judge Chris Wogan struck Knox’s name because he is not a registered Democrat in the district, Dawson’s list was reduced to fewer than the required 750 and her campaign came to an end.

Dawson turned in 870 signatures of people who said they wanted to see her make a run for the council seat, which will open when incumbent Donna Reed Miller retires at the end of this year.

“I’m not going to be the only one before this day is out,” she said after the hearing concluded.

She may be right. According to records at the City Commissioner’s offices five of the candidates making a run for the Eighth face challenges to their nomination papers.

Andrew Lofton, William Durham and Robin Tasco also faced challenges today. Jordon Dillard did not attend the hearings, though his name was on the list of cases. He did not immediately return a request to confirm he was facing challenges.

The three candidates who remained in court are all crying foul and they’re blaming fellow candidate Cindy Bass. Some of them say Bass is hitting below the belt.

“Run the race without putting all this extra stuff in there at the last minute,” said Tasco. “People are smart enough to say who they want to represent them.”

The objection all three candidates brought to Judge Wogan was that the challenges to their signatures, none of which were filed by Bass, came after the 5 p.m. deadline on March 15.

Several Bass staffers or volunteers attended the hearing and Bass admits some of them were involved with some challenges, but that should not be surprising, she said.

“Challenges are done by citizens, it’s not me as a candidate,” she said. “Some of those people do support me. I’m not sure who filed what challenges, there may be others.”

In each of the three cases the challenged candidates are right about the time of the petitions. However Judge Wogan said he received a memo from the President Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, Pamela Dembe, saying that any challenges filed before midnight on Tuesday would be accepted.

In response Richard Hoy, an attorney for candidate Durham, handed Wogan a hard copy certification of the challenges against his candidate with an embossed stamp of March 16, in the afternoon a full day late.

“They served the City Commissioners office not in the morning, not at noon. They waited until the last minute to file,” Hoy said.

That argument earned Durham and Tasco a continuance until Monday, but Lofton will face the same line-by-line process that Dawson went through later today.

Dawson was saddened by the outcome today. She got into the race primarily to help make life better for people in the Eighth District, though she admitted since this was her first time running for public office there was a learning curve.

Bass thinks candidates should go into the race showing voters that they are already up to the challenges of the job, and surviving a nomination petition challenge is part of that.

“Getting out and getting signatures of eligible voters I think is a very important part of the process,” she said. “I think that it sends a signal of how hard you are going to be willing to work.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal