Green Party Senate candidate Mel Packer said today that he expects the Joe Sestak campaign to win its challenge of his petition signatures and be successful in its attempt to throw him off the ballot.
The ballot challenge "was not unexpected and given the absurd requirements that third-party candidates must meet to attain ballot status, his challenge will likely be successful and I will lose my already state-certified ballot status," the Point Breeze man said at a press conference Downtown.
Sestak, the Democratic party's candidate, had to submit 2,000 petition signatures to get on the statewide ballot while Packer, a 65-year-old physician's assistant and activist in his first run for office, had to submit 19,082. He barely hit that total (filing 20,553), so he expects Sestak's lawyers to easily invalidate enough signatures -- though incorrect addresses, illegible signatures and the like -- to bounce him off the Nov. 2 ballot.
The Senate race is shaping up to be close: Sestak trailed GOP opponent Pat Toomey by 6 points in the last polling.
The last time a Green Party candidate made it onto a statewide ballot -- in David Cobb's run for president in 2004 -- he received 0.1 percent of the vote. The Sestak campaign has not commented on why it is challenging Packer's petitions, but it is likely worried he would siphon off some voters, however small the number.
Packer said his Green Party platform shares more with those espoused by the liberal Sestak than the conservative Toomey, but the differences between him and Sestak were still significant.
"Everywhere you turn we are struck down and put at a disadvantage and so are the voters of Pennsylvania. One of the common things people said to us when we were circulating petitions -- over and over again -- was 'Anything but those two. I'm sick of only having two choices,'" Packer said.
"We're willing to take on the system and say the system is broken, and it doesn't work for the average person in this country anymore. That's what we have to confront that our politicians are not willing to confront, and state the obvious -- that the system doesn't work anymore," he said.
A Commonwealth Court hearing on the ballot challenge is set for 10 a.m. Aug. 18 in Harrisburg.