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Ceoffe challenge likely Monday

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Colville signaled this morning that he would likely not grant an emergency order requested by a Pittsburgh City Council special election candidate barring his opponent from receiving the Democratic Party's nomination, but rather leave the decision to a different judge.

Lawrenceville's Tony Ceoffe Jr. filed a court order last week seeking to block the party nomination Highland Park's Deb Gross received in an intra-party vote July 21. Ms. Gross won in a narrow 47-43 vote by Democratic committee members in council District 7, which Patrick Dowd vacated early this month, and Mr. Ceoffe argued there were enough problems with the way the vote was conducted to throw out the results.

All candidates in the race have to file with the county Elections Division by tomorrow afternoon. Retired Judge Joseph James, who usually hears election cases, has not scheduled a hearing until Monday, Aug. 5.

Mr. Ceoffe's lawyer Dan Joyce argued there were at least four bogus votes cast July 1, which should throw out the nomination results. He told Judge Colville he could make his arguments before the other judge next week, but first asked for an order blocking the party from officially making Ms. Gross their candidate.

A lawyer for Ms. Gross, Chuck Pascal, tried to poke holes in Mr. Joyce's arguments, noting party rules are different in nominations for empty seats like the District 7 one than they would be for an endorsement in a regular primary. He and Democratic Committee attorney Jack Cambest also noted that the Ceoffe team could not prove for whom the four voters in question cast their secret ballots.

Mr. Cambest also said the party wouldn't do any spending, including on slate cards, for the endorsement until September.

Judge Colville said he assumed Judge James could undo the nomination if he agreed with the Ceoffe side, and that he would "chew on" the injunction request and review it with the other judge. "I anticipate, though not make the promise, I will not grant the motion" for an injunction," he said.

He expects to file his decision later today.

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