WEST WYOMING — A hearing is set for Wednesday in Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg to determine the validity of challenges to nominating petitions filed by John Bolin, a Wyoming Area school director who is seeking the Democratic nomination in the 120th Legislative District.
Bolin submitted petitions with 329 signatures, just 29 over the 300 minimum number required in state representative races.
Charles Jackson of West Wyoming filed a challenge to Bolin’s petitions, claiming 72 signatures are invalid. Bolin’s attorney, Lawrence Moran, said they agree that 21 should be removed, leaving Bolin with just 308 on his petitions.
Jackson will testify at Wednesday’s hearing, and Moran said he intends to cross-examine him to determine his motivation for filing the challenge. The matter has blown up into a no-holds-barred political donnybrook that could impact the primary race’s outcome.
Bolin, who will turn 45 Monday, is challenging West Wyoming Councilwoman Eileen Cipriani, 55, and Wyoming Valley West teacher and Edwardsville Borough Councilman Gary Mack, 55, in the Democratic field. The winner will face Republican Aaron Kaufer, unopposed in the GOP race, in the November general election.
Jackson said he did sign Cipriani’s nominating petition and supports her because “she is the best candidate” for the position. As far as why he challenged Bolin’s petitions, Jackson said he would reserve comment until Wednesday’s hearing.
“Nobody put me up to this. I made my own decision to file the challenge,” he said. “As far as why I did it, they will find out when we get to the hearing.”
Moran called the challenge “a cheap political tactic.” He said challenges occur in every election cycle, but he said this one is “the most ruthless and ambitious” he has ever seen.
“Mr. Bolin is the target of a shadowy ballot challenge, in the form of a petition to set aside his nominating petitions,” Moran said. “John Bolin is the first to admit that he filed nominating petitions with only 329 signatures from qualified electors, which is a regrettably low number for a candidate who needed 300 to qualify. Mr. Bolin fell woefully short of his signature goal, in part, because he was receiving cancer treatment at Sloan Kettering in New York during from March 6th until March 11th, which was ostensibly a final and important week to circulate nominating petitions.”
Cipriani said she did not coach Jackson to file the challenge. She said Jackson did contact her campaign several times, claiming “things weren’t right” with Bolin’s petitions.
“Mr. Jackson advised us to check them once they were filed,” Cipriani said. “Folks from my campaign did look at them and found several discrepancies.”
Cipriani said several of the people who signed Bolin’s petitions were not registered Democrats, listed wrong addresses or were registered Republicans.
“There were a host of issues,” she said. “But Charlie (Jackson) did this because he wanted to do it. We did not twist his arm. This is not a personal issue; it’s a procedural issue.”
The hearing is scheduled for Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at the Pennsylvania Judicial Center in Commonwealth Court, Harrisburg.