Amid Uncertainty, Congressional Candidates Circulate Petitions
Congressional candidates began circulating paperwork Tuesday to get on the May 15 primary election ballot, knowing they might have to do it all over if court appeals alter district maps again.
The candidates or their spokesmen said they are seeking signatures for nominating petitions based on the congressional district map boundaries that the state Supreme Court ordered last week, even though Republican appeals of the map remain pending in federal courts.
“We are going by the map we have in front of us,” said Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko, a Republican candidate for the newly drawn 12th Congressional District seat against incumbent Republican Rep. Tom Marino. “If we’ve got to do it again, we’ll do it again.”
Democrat Judy Herschel, of Susquehanna County, also is running in the 12th.
Candidates need at least 1,000 registered voters of their party to sign petitions to get on either the Democratic or Republican primary ballot. They have until March 20 to get the required signatures, under a new deadline established after the Supreme Court declared Jan. 22 that the existing map violates the state constitution.
The court gave the state General Assembly and Gov. Tom Wolf until Feb. 15 to come up with a new map. They didn’t, and the court, using its own redistricting expert, issued its own. Republicans appealed to federal courts and asked the U.S. Supreme Court to delay implementation until the appeals end.
For the moment, the state court’s map remains the law of the land and the one candidates must follow.
Like many Republicans, McLinko said he finds the state Supreme Court’s ruling wrong, an instance of meddling where state legislators should have the final say.
“To do it this way was nuts,” he said. “We cannot have the balance of power decided in Congress by supreme courts.”
Brock McCleary, a spokesman for congressional candidate John Chrin, said Chrin’s petitions will get circulated in the Supreme Court-created 8th Congressional District.
“That’s all you can do,” McCleary said.
Denny Wolff, the former state agriculture secretary whose Columbia County home became part of a new 9th Congressional District that includes western and southern parts of Luzerne County, said he’s pleased with the new district, which should stand because it is fairer to voters .
“It adds a level of confusion but nothing we can’t manage,” Wolff said. “We’re good with it the way it is and if they go back, we’ll deal with that, too.
Chrin, a Republican and resident of Northampton County, moved there last year so he could run in the pre-court-ruling 17th Congressional District, whose congressman is Rep. Matt Cartwright, a Moosic Democrat. The Supreme Court put Cartwright’s home in the new 8th, which does not include any of Northampton County.
In a statement Tuesday, Chrin made it clear he plans to run in the 8th anyway. Under the U.S. Constitution, congressional candidates must live in the state that contains the district they want to represent, but may live outside the actual district. Chrin called Cartwright an “out-of-touch Washington politician” and said he will focus on “bringing economic growth to the region.”
Cartwright, who moved to the region 30 years ago, said he and his wife raised a family here, and he fought for “working families” for 25 years as a lawyer and the last five years in Congress. As he gains seniority, he will use his seat on the House Appropriations Committee “to deliver very significant help to our entire area.”
Wanda Murren, a spokeswoman for the state Department of State, which oversees elections, declined to speculate on whether the department would have to reschedule the primary or order another round of circulating petitions if a court overturns the new district maps.
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