We should know soon whether Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett gets to coast to re-nomination this spring while Democrats rip each other up, or whether he will be dogged and confronted for the next two months by a determined conservative challenger.
Ardmore businessman Bob Guzzardi filed nominating petitions last week to oppose Corbett in the May 20th gubernatorial primary, and he plans to spread the accusation far and wide that Corbett broke his promise as a candidate not to raise taxes.
“Will Republican voters humiliate themselves and vote for a man who blatantly broke his promise to them in 2010?” Guzzardi asked in a telephone interview last week. “We shall see.”
Guzzardi says Corbett’s impact fees on gas drilling and revenue measures in a transportation bill are betrayals of his campaign promises and conservative principles. The Corbett team differs, of course, and if they don’t want to hear that kind of stuff from Guzzardi for the next two months, their one shot at stopping him will be to file a legal challenge to his nominating petitions.
To get on the Republican ballot, Guzzardi had to get the signatures of two thousand registered Republicans, including 100 from each of ten counties. Guzzardi told me believes he filed about 2,900 signatures – no thanks to tea party activists, he noted – and they should withstand scrutiny. I think they’ll get some.
How to snuff out a campaign in its infancy
When I asked the Corbett campaign and the Republican state committee last week if they had plans to challenge Guzzardi’s petitions last week, both said they’re focused on the governor’s own campaign.
But I have no doubt they have experts examining those filings carefully, looking for people who signed that aren’t registered Republicans, signatures or addresses that are illegible, signatures or addresses that don’t match those on voter registration forms, and petitions themselves that aren’t properly documented or notarized.
When a challenge is filed, it typically isn’t from the rival campaign directly. The case comes from a few ordinary voters, presumably so affronted by the petitons’ lack of conformance to law that they feel compelled to go to court. The real power behind the challenge comes when you see who the lawyers are and who pays their fees.
There are numerous petition challenges in every election. Once they’re filed, judges hold hearings and each side goes over the challenged petitions and signatures, one by one, and the judge rules whether they count or don’t. And what the judge rules can be appealed, of course.
If you want to examine Guzzardi’s petitions yourself, you can find them here.
Does Corbett fear Guzzardi?
Muhlenberg College political analyst Christopher Borick says the Corbett team would love to short circuit Guzzardi’s campaign if they can.”It’s not so much that Guzzardi poses a real challenge to defeat him,” Borick said in a phone interview, “but he has a chance to embarrass the governor if he does well, if there’s a significant ‘anybody but Corbett’ vote out there.”
Polls show there’s anger about the Penn State child abuse investigation that might drive some votes to Guzzardi, as well as small-government advocates who agree with Guzzardi that Corbett hasn’t held the line on spending and taxes as he should.
A Guzzardi candidacy would probably force Corbett to spend money to roll up a big margin the May primary, money he’d probably rather save for the general election. And Guzzardi will be challenging Corbett to prove his conservative credentials when he needs to focus on appealing to moderate Democrats and independents for November.
One thing’s clear: Guzzardi won’t back down. He’s asking for an investigation of Corbett’s actions around a special state senate election in York county, which Guzzardi says Corbett is manipulating to try and defeat businessman Scott Wagner.The facts of the case are interesting, as you can read in this story by Jan Murphy of the Harrisburg Patriot-News.
If anyone is going to challenge Guzzardi’s petitions, the complaint must be filed by tomorrow.