Jason Altmire has survived the petition challenge from Democratic rival Mark Critz and will be on the April 24 primary ballot, his campaign announced this afternoon.
He survived by a bare 150 or so signatures, after the Critz camp challenged the residency of an Altmire aide who circulated many of his petitions.
In his 11-page decision, Commonwealth Court President Judge Dan Pellegrini said "there is no dispute [the aide] had two residences" but said Critz failed to prove that she was making her address outside the district permanent. Documentation (including her driver's license and voter registration) showed she lived in O'Hara Township and testimony from a friend proved she planned to move back to the township (within the 12th District) later this year, he wrote.
The aide, 23-year-old Abby Silverman, "has clearly not intended to make the Shadyside address her permanent home," Pellegrini ruled.
Said Altmire in a statement: "By placing a higher value on his own political advancement than the rights of western Pennsylvania voters, Mark Critz wasted the time and resources of the Court and showed the true desperation of his campaign. His actions demonstrate an inexcusable lack of respect not only for the democratic process but also for the rights of ordinary citizens who wanted nothing more than to offer voters a choice on the ballot."
Critz spokesman Mike Mikus: "We disagree with the judge's decision and are currently exploring our legal options. It was clear from the beginning that the Altmire campaign violated the law in numerous instances and the fact that they withdrew approximately 400 signatures – nearly 25 percent of the total they submitted – demonstrates that our case is very strong."
Full statement after the jump:Ross Township, PA – Today, after an exhaustive review, the Commonwealth Court confirmed what we knew all along -- that my campaign turned in more than the required 1000 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. We knew this to be true on the day we submitted the signatures and we knew this to be true the day Mark Critz filed his futile and cowardly challenge.
By placing a higher value on his own political advancement than the rights of western Pennsylvania voters, Mark Critz wasted the time and resources of the Court and showed the true desperation of his campaign. His actions demonstrate an inexcusable lack of respect not only for the democratic process but also for the rights of ordinary citizens who wanted nothing more than to offer voters a choice on the ballot.
Trailing by double digits even in his own polls, it is unsurprising that Critz lacks confidence in his ability to win the primary. He came into Allegheny, Beaver and Westmoreland Counties, sought their Democratic endorsements, and was defeated in all three by a combined 74 percent of the vote. Now, he has filed an unsuccessful legal challenge and attempted to remove from the primary ballot the name of the endorsed Democratic candidate, who also happens to be the current elected representative of citizens in those counties. The audacity is breathtaking.
In filing this unsuccessful challenge, Mark Critz has lowered himself to tactics usually reserved for elections to high school prom king, rather than the United States Congress. Simply put, his actions are beneath the dignity of the office he seeks and an insult to the voters he hopes to represent.
Mark Critz's desperation "Hail Mary" pass has fallen incomplete. Hopefully he has learned that the way to win an election is not through political dirty tricks and lawsuits, but rather in the court of public opinion at the ballot box. I look forward to spending the final seven weeks of the primary campaign discussing the issues that matter most to western Pennsylvania voters, not engaging in a petty back and forth with a desperate campaign that is hopelessly behind and clearly out of fresh ideas.