Though Judge Joe James kept both Democrats Chelsa Wagner and George Matta on the ballot, the Brookline state rep kept up her attacks on the casino official afterwards:
"As a Democrat and an elected official, I work to find ways to encourage greater participation in the Democratic process. I'm saddened by how my opponent has burdened good people, who came to an event to hear candidates speak, and become more engaged. He dragged senior citizens downtown and forced honest taxpayers to lose a day of pay for his selfish attempt to circumvent the electoral process," Wagner said in a statement.
Matta's brother Gary, said he would appeal James' ruling keeping Wagner on the May 17 ballot. (Valerie McDonald Roberts -- no Matta fan either -- is also running for the Democratic nom to controller.)
After Patti Weaver surprisingly dropped out of the exec race yesterday, she urged support of other county GOP candidates, including Bob Howard for controller. Howard, an activist and former PPG official, released his own statement saying in part, “I welcome support from Ms. Weaver and all voters of Allegheny County who have awakened and come to realize that an unholy alliance exists between the political class and special interest groups, and that the interests of the citizens of Allegheny County are not being served by this unholy alliance.”
The full releases from both Wagner and Howard are after the jump:
PITTSBURGH - This afternoon, in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, Judge Joseph James dismissed George Matta's petition challenge to the candidacy of Chelsa Wagner for Allegheny County Controller. Judge James ruled that Wagner's petitions were circulated legitimately, well within the parameters of the law.
Wagner, the only attorney in the race for controller stated, "I am pleased with Judge James' decision today, and believe that this challenge was entirely frivolous under well established Pennsylvania election law. My team and I will continue to proceed with the professional campaign that earned us three times the necessary signatures to get on the ballot." Wagner further indicated her belief that her training as an attorney is not only important in the petition process, but in fulfilling the duties of the County Controller's office.
George Matta, who filed the petition, was represented by his brother, Gary Matta, of Dodaro Matta & Cambest. George Matta claimed that some of Wagner's signatures should be stricken because she was in Harrisburg on the date the petition was circulated. In response to Matta's claim that it was "impossible" for Wagner to have circulated the petition on the evening in question, Wagner herself testified that she was in session in Harrisburg that morning, but after the four hour drive to Pittsburgh, was back to the area by 6pm to attend Democratic committee events that evening, where she circulated the petition, and moreover talked to George Matta at the event in question. All other witnesses Matta called to question Wagner's petition confirmed that Chelsa was in attendance and spoke to each of these individuals at the event in Pittsburgh's Lincoln-Lemington neighborhood.
Matta claimed to have issued subpoenas to all 19 signers of Wagner's petitions, many of whom indicated they weren't properly served, felt harassed, and were frustrated to lose a day of pay to attend the proceeding. One indicated she would never attend another Democratic event because of the ordeal. Wagner, a legislator and attorney, conveyed her frustration and sympathy to her fellow Democrats who were subjected to what she called an "abuse of the Democratic process" based on the frivolous nature of Matta's challenge, when he in fact knew that Chelsa attended the event, that the petition was legitimately circulated, and that Pennsylvania law is well-established on all of the issues in question.
"As a Democrat and an elected official, I work to find ways to encourage greater participation in the Democratic process. I'm saddened by how my opponent has burdened good people, who came to an event to hear candidates speak, and become more engaged. He dragged senior citizens downtown and forced honest taxpayers to lose a day of pay for his selfish attempt to circumvent the electoral process."
For Wagner, who handily won both the influential labor and Democratic endorsements earlier this month, today's ruling in court signified yet another victory over her two opponents in the three-way race for County Controller, as Wagner continues as the frontrunner to win the Democratic Primary on May 17th.