Monday petition challenges could dramatically remap the Eighth District Council race

The crowded field for the Eighth Council District Democratic primary has shrunk, and could shrink even more dramatically on Monday.

At least three, and possibly four, of the original 10 candidates face court hearings Monday on challenges to their nominating petitions.

One candidate, Fay Dawson, got booted off the ballot Friday when a judge ruled she had not gathered the required 750 valid signatures of registered Democratic voters who live in the district.

Challenges have also been filed to the nominating petitions of Andrew Lofton, Robin Tasco, William Durham and Jordan Dillard. Hearings on the challenges to the first three are slated for Monday, after being postponed from Friday. The status of the challenge to Dillard could not be determined.


The rest of the field

Meanwhile, Donna Gentile O’Donnell announced late Thursday that she was withdrawing voluntarily from the race.

That leaves four candidates – Cindy Bass – Greg Paulmier – Verna Tyner – Howard Treatman definitely on the ballot, with no challenges.


Fight over the challenge deadline

At least one challenged candidate, Andrew Lofton, is plenty steamed about how the process is being handled. Tasco, Durham and Dillard did not respond to requests for comment.

Lofton turned in petitions with 780 signatures, so if 31 or more of them get disqualified, he’d be knocked off the ballot. .

Lofton says even if he’s thrown off the ballot over the signature challenge, he’ll appeal. He contends the person who challenged his petitions did not submit the claim until 7 p.m. last Tuesday, two hours after 5 p.m. deadline. Lofton’s reading of the law is that a challenge must be submitted within seven days of the deadline for submitting the nominating petition, which was 5 p.m., March 5.

A city judge ruled that challenges submitted electronically before midnight the night of the deadline were valid.

Lofton thinks the process is all messed up.

“The deadlines on Committee of Seventy and elsewhere all say 5 p.m. is the deadline,” he said, “There’s no place on the city’s website that even allows you to submit a challenge electronically.”

Lofton said the only way you can do that is to have an attorney who knows about this loophole. He called that unfair: “The system is broken if people are led to believe one thing, and that’s not the case….that’s giving special privileges.”

The challenge to Durham and Tasco’s petitions were also filed after the 5 p.m. deadline. As a result, both candidates also want the challenges to their petitions thrown out.


A race for an open seat

This race has galvanized politically active residents of Northwest Philadelphia. The incumbent, Donna Reed Miller, isn’t seeking re-election after 16 years in office. No Republican candidates have emerged yet. The district covers Chestnut Hill, Mount Airy, Germantown, Nicetown and parts of other Northwest Philadelphia neighborhoods.


Voice of the voters

Eighth District voters will get three chances to talk about the hopes and issues for this election at three upcoming NewsWorks voter forums, co-sponsored by the Committee of Seventy, G-Town Radio and the Germantown Community Connection. This first is this Tuesday, March 22, at First United Methodist Church of Germantown, 6001 Germantown Avenue Philadelphia. Doors open at 6 p.m. with activities beginning at 6:30 p.m. and formal program at 7 p.m.

The other forums will be Monday, March 28, at Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church, and Tuesday, April 5, at the Commodore Barry Club in Mount Airy.

The goal of three opening forums is to harvest voter concerns and turn them into voter-oriented questions that will encourage candidates to address real concerns, think on their feet, and venture away from those practiced talking points.

Any eligible Eighth District voters are welcome to attend. The candidates will not speak at these three preliminary forums, though they will be welcome to attend and listen in as voters discuss the issues.


April 27 candidates’ debate

The issues that come from the forums will be used to help formulate questions for a NewsWorks Eighth District candidates’ debate to be held at 7 p.m., Wednesday, April 27, at First Presbyterian Church in Germantown, 35 West Chelten Ave.


Chris Satullo, executive director of news and civic dialogue for WHYY/NewsWorks, will appear on Ed Feldman’s show Morning Feed on G-Town Radio at 9 a.m. Monday to talk about the Eighth District race, the voter forums and debate.

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