Greg Paulmier strolled into Courtroom A late Wednesday afternoon with a pair of white plastic forks.
One for him. One for his lawyer.
After a bitter four-day fight to remain on May’s primary election ballot, the Germantown resident withdrew from the Eighth District City Council race.
The somewhat subtle symbolism of those mysteriously acquired keepsakes wasn’t lost on Paulmier, a perennial candidate.
“Stick a fork in me, I’m done,” he said with a smile before grabbing his things.
Paulmier’s decision to bow out means first-term incumbent Democrat Cindy Bass will run unopposed in the primary, though she may face an independent candidate during the general election.
It also — for now — ends Paulmier’s 16-year quest to represent the Northwest Philadelphia district. This was his fifth stab at the seat.
“As hard as it was, it was the right thing to do — to come together and decide that there’s a time to fight and a time to work together sometimes with the people that you fight with,” said Paulmier.
Bass, who was on hand Wednesday, said she’d like that.
“We need to not tear our communities apart, but to build it up,” she said.
Paulmier landed in court after a fellow Germantown resident challenged his nominating petitions, the long, gold-colored sheets of paper containing the voter signatures every candidate must collect to get on the ballot.
Paulmier fell roughly 85 signatures short of the 750 required for candidates running for district posts.
More than half of the 1,190 signatures he filed were challenged.
Some came from voters who don’t live in the Eighth District. Some came from voters registered with another party or not at all. Others were simply considered too illegible to count.
Still, Paulmier didn’t go quietly. Ditto for his lawyer John Carns.
On Monday, the pair huddled around a computer screen with opposing lawyer Kevin Greenberg and Steven Vaughn, a longtime political operative who had served time for being part of a large-scale tax fraud scheme scamming the city’s law department.
After hours and hours of reviewing signatures, the quartet had boiled down Paulmier’s fate to 154 signatures.
If 50 or more were struck, Paulmier would be too.
“Exciting,” Greenberg quipped to no one in particular as the parties moved through the batch with Common Pleas Court Judge Chris Wogan, who presided over the matter.
Adding pain to painstaking process
By day’s end, the end of the line was in sight. Ten or 20 more signatures would knock Paulmier off the ballot.
Thirty more minutes on Wednesday — tops.
On Wednesday, however, Carns made a few moves that caused groans in the courtroom.
And some fireworks.
Before delving back into the petitions, Carns again detailed for Wogan how frustrated he was with the logistics of reviewing the signatures with Vaughn instead of Greenberg, who was busy representing other challengers in the same room.
He also argued that Wogan shouldn’t strike any signatures where the objection wasn’t specifically spelled out, even in cases where it was revealed that a voter was Republican.
Wogan wasn’t pleased, calling the assertion “absurd.”
Carns, though, didn’t back down immediately, which prompted Wogan to threaten jail time.
“Stand by deputy because we have a lawyer that doesn’t want to follow my instructions in the courtroom,” yelled Wogan.
Afterward, Carns told Wogan and Greenberg that he wanted to run through all 662 challenges to Paulmier’s petitions, effectively erasing the hours of work already spent on the case.
“We’re going to do it the clean way,” barked Carns.
“I’m ready to appeal. I’m ready to appeal,” said Paulmier during a brief recess.
But by around 3:30 p.m., after breaking for Democrat T. Milton Street’s case to remain a mayoral candidate, Paulmier called it quits.
He said, as he always has, that a run in four years isn’t completely out of the question.
“I don’t have to be anything. I have to have a healthy environment to live in for my family to live in and I have to see my community in that same environment,” said Paulmier.