By Sandy Scarmack
Herald Staff Writer
MERCER COUNTY —
Judicial candidate Daniel P. Wallace won’t be on the Democratic ballot in the May primary after challenges to his nominating papers were upheld Thursday by a Commonwealth Court judge.
Wallace, West Salem Township, had enough valid signatures to remain on the Republican ballot for Mercer County Common Pleas Court judge.
Attorney James Walsh, who was hired by William M. Griffin, of Wheatland, to contest the validity of signatures on Wallace’s petition, as well as those on petitions for judicial candidates Jim Ryan and Joann Jofery, said the judge agreed that signatures on Wallace’s Democratic petitions were invalid.
He said Wallace had more than the required 250 valid signatures to secure a spot on the Republican ballot.
Judicial candidates routinely cross-file on both ballots in the partisan primaries because a judge is considered a non-partisan post.
Walsh, added however, that he was “surprised” to learn of an additional petition with 49 signatures on it and that he could not amend his original challenge to include that page of signatures.
“I was just made aware of this second page last week. Why wasn’t it part of the original submission? I just wonder where it came from,” Walsh said.
Wallace did not return a call to The Herald for comment.
The challenge to Jofery’s nominating petition was withdrawn last week, when it was determined her signatures were all valid. She will be on both the Democratic and Republican tickets.
Ryan, whom Walsh said he has had a difficult time contacting, will have a hearing before the Commonwealth Court on April 11.
No challenges were filed to the petitions of candidate Victor Heutsche, of Sharon, or Ryan Mergl, of Sharon.
County Director of Elections Jeff Greenburg said he believes the challenges are a first for a Mercer County judicial race.
Griffin, one of the two petitioners represented by Walsh, is a childhood friend and campaign supporter of Mergl.
Mergl initially said he did not know anything about the challenge to three of the five candidates petitions, but later sent a clarification to The Herald.
“Prior to the challenges being filed, I knew that they would be filed. I did not know the specifics or the merits of each challenge. After consultation with the challengers and their counsel, I am supporting the challenges. The allegation is that election laws were violated. Running for judicial office is a privilege and those wishing to do so must follow the rules as they were handed down by our legislature and interpreted by our courts. Those who do not comply with the rules have no place on the ballot,” Mergl said.