PA-12: Larchuk Calls on McClelland to Drop Out

LarchukIt’s not just presidential candidates that are having problems with signatures.

The Democratic candidates in the PA-12 race, Steve Larchuk and Erin McClelland are embroiled in a battle over McClelland’s signatures. Specifically, Larchuk’s campaign asserts that McClelland did not collect enough valid signatures to make the ballot.

“She has no chance of remaining on the primary ballot. Her petitions are rife with unregistered voters, voters who live outside the district, voters registered as members of political parties other than Democrats and outright forgeries,” Larchuk campaign manager Bruce Spector said. “By continuing to pursue her candidacy, she will be costing taxpayers thousands of dollars in unnecessary court expense and wasting time and resources needed to mount a serious challenge to extremist Republican ‘Freedom Caucus’ member Keith Rothfus.”

PoliticsPA reached out to the McClelland camp for a response but have yet to hear back.

In Pennsylvania, a candidate for Congress is required to file nominating petitions with a minimum of 1,000 valid signatures from voters of their party registered to vote in the District where the candidate is seeking to run. Challenges to nominating petitions are relatively common in Pennsylvania. This year there were more than 60 challenges filed against candidates for various offices.

McClelland was the nominee in 2014, losing to Rothfus by 18 points.

The Larchuk petition challenge is set to be heard in Commonwealth Court on March 17, 2016. A ruling is expected shortly thereafter.

The 12th Congressional District covers Beaver County and parts of Allegheny, Cambria, Lawrence, Somerset, and Westmoreland Counties.

34 Responses

  1. Shame on the both of you candidates. You both do everything the hard way when it’s easier to do it the right way. It’s not rocket science. You’re not runningfor president of the 7th grade…you’re running to represent your congressional district in the UNITED States Congress. 1000 names are not hard to gather in the 21 days or so legal to garner them. I know. I’ve done statewide races and collected many more. I’ve watched JoPa’s son and a former state wide official scrapple to get the limit and fail, because they did not properly plan. Think of the wasted hours in court costs and out of court document preparation for a challenge and defense. Wouldn’t it have been much easier to train a team and collect 3000 good names within the specified circulating dates and properly file them. If you can’t complete that task, how do you think you can win and represent your fellow citizens in D.C.
    You might even realize in the team gathering process that you are gathering great incite from the rank and file voters
    I don’t know Larchuk’s reason for the challenge. He and McClelland are both unknown. He should have welcomed her as an easy opponent to beat in the primary. It would also show him what kind of support he had in the district. I understand that Larchuk’s had
    unsuccessfully ran in a different district in 2004.
    For some reason petition gathering is too difficult and almost did in Congressman Jason Altire and Congressman Mark Critz when they were pitted against each other 4 years ago as a result of the newly gerrymandered 12th district…

  2. eagleswing

    So, what has Larchuk done to “remedy” this?

    Does Larchuk have to appeal?

  3. “Let’s see, they were in court for 7 hours and Ernsberger managed to strike 7 signatures. Which lawyer is incompetent again?” You obviously were not in court. You might take into account that in that 7 hours the judge had stricken 206 signatures which were IHA (in hand of another i.e. forged) . then the protocol demanded BY the JUDGE is to go line by line through every ground stated in the Election Code for invalidating a signature. This judge did not want to hear much from experts; presumably she considered herself a questioned documents examiner. . the judge did NOT allow Larchuk’s witness to testify, which witness could have speeded things along and summarized all objections by by objection type : ” P 45, lines 1 3 6 8 9 your honor are all defective for lack of a date within the circulation period.’ etc. for each category of objection. This effective and efficient procedure was DISALLOWED by this judge ( who has never authored an election challenge opinion in her short time on this bench.) The JUDGE required the tedious line by line procedure and advised counsel they could NOT put on summary witnesses by category. so blame the judge and her peculiar rulings for a ridiculous expenditure of witness time.

  4. LostinPA

    I think you only need to have been in the district since this past November.

    If you really are ineligible, you might still know someone who is.

  5. I’m in a position that does not allow for me get into politics as an elected official. Which is why LostinPA is my user name and obviously not my real name. I’ve looked at the requirements and in addition to my current job, I’m not eligible for state office due to the residency requirements. I haven’t lived here anywhere near long enough.

  6. LostinPA-

    Good. I agree.

    Would you like to do something about removing/replacing him?

    If so, we can make arrangements to make contact. I think you’ll like what I have in mind.

  7. LostinPA-

    You are an independent in the 12 congressional district.

    You are in Evankovich’s legislative district. What do you think of him?

  8. A power of attorney document to circulate a petition…really? I hope it works and, yeah, this judge is a little bit doofus. Maybe if she had hemmoroids she would appear concerned.
    Good luck, Erin.

  9. Where is the union strength and support. Instead of picketing you should have worked to get signatures. This is a pathetic display of grassroots strength.

  10. LostinPA-

    There is more to it in this particular case, but I can’t say without revealing something told me in confidence that wasn’t in the article.

    If I had thought of it myself, I would say it, but I don’t want to preempt someone else’s legal argument in this battle of wits. It’s an interesting technicality.

    I’m reminded of a line from Futurama when dealing with the Bureaucracy: “You are technically correct,sir. And, that is the BEST kind of correct.”

  11. Good point David Diano on the baseball analogies. I live in this district, but as an independent can’t vote in the primary. I’ve been asked several times over the past couple years since I’ve been here to sign a petition which I could not sign due to my party status. Does this “in the vicinity” thing have any precedent? I’m not sure how you can sign and certify that you were in the presence of someone signing a petition if you were just in the vicinity? Would this not have to become a law if McClelland wins that says what the vicinity is? I live in Murrysville if someone is 4 blocks over are they in the vicinity? If they are in Monroeville are they in the vicinity? To me as soon as she said she did not see the signatures actually signed they should be invalid or the whole process should be eliminated.

  12. LostinPA-

    I think the appropriate baseball analogy might be pinch hitter, pinch runner or designated hitter.

    eagleswing –

    All very interesting. Erin’s attorney on this is pretty sharp too. I’ve referred to him as an ‘evil genius’ at least 20 times in the past two weeks. So, I wouldn’t count him out.

    However, given the number of challenges remaining, and how close the numbers are to 1,000, Chuck may need to dig up a time-machine to fix this one. 🙂

  13. eagleswing — “Smartest and most experienced lawyers in Pittsburgh” (Ernsberger)?

    “incompetent lawyer” – McClelland’s lawyer?

    Let’s see, they were in court for 7 hours and Ernsberger managed to strike 7 signatures. Which lawyer is incompetent again?

  14. And the award for the most ridiculous and informed comment of the week goes to–eagleswing.

  15. Observer, you might find it instructive to red the Election Code and then actually read the objections filed by Larchuk who has one of the smartest and most experienced attorneys, Barbara Ernsberger of Pgh. PA representing him. A number of Mc Clelland signatures were challenged on grounds they were forged. Other signatures were were challenged under the categories specifically set forth in Commonwealth Court’s standing order: No signature, printed, missing info, wrong date, no address, , not registered, not registered in district etc. Objections total 710. The Mc Clelland campaign was asked to stipulate to more than 275 objections being valid on their elector signatures. NB – there are more challenged signatures than the 275. forgeries are alleged to have been been committed by certain circulators . So Observer’s claim that ” They invented a TON of those challenges out of whole cloth” is not quite accurate, or Mc Clelland’s lawyer would not have agreed to dismiss a fair number of signatures already. .And the claim : ” Erin has been all over Facebook posting pictures of herself with the challenged signers” ? well, as of yesterday Erin had posted pics of exactly 2 electors , and there are 710 challenged signatures. Do the math – she’s in trouble and could be stricken from the ballot.. the objections case is still continuing , before a republican judge who is singularly unimpressive and does not appear to understand much election law. so expect it to go to the supreme court when erin loses on a number of signatures– that is, if she can afford the legal fees and court costs. ( is a boyfriend or husband is representing her at no charge? her campaign did not have $20K for legal fees last time i checked…) And as to Observer’s claim ” she may file for attorney fees for this scam lawsuit’– you quite misunderstand PA election law. If Larchuk proves a substantial number of signatures are forged or defective, he is the one entitled to recovery o fees and costs , so he will be coming after Mc Clelland and her incompetent lawyer for costs and fees. Had Mc Clelland’s lawyer stipulated to the striking of defective signatures, Larchuk would not be entitled to attorney fees. but if the lawyer does not stipulate,fees and costs can be awarded. we’ll see who goes to the bank on this case. when both side have hired expert witnesses on the forgeries issue, it’s obviously not the ‘scam’ Observer purports it to be.

  16. So petition signing is now like a major league baseball double play you just have to be in vicinity of the base? If that argument flies then this whole process needs to be done away with, because it’s ridiculous.

  17. Local 1196 Steelworkers are famous for backstabbing politicians who have helped them. During the lockout, they bad mouthed the one guy who assisted them in Harrisburg and lumped all public officials into the “corrupt” category because their benefits ran out and no one immediately provided a safety net. Boo Hoo. They gave lip service to Erin then let their middle finger do the walking. She could have found better help in the yellow pages.

  18. We don’t have secure method for each voter to login and identify themselves. Posing as someone else would be too easy, unlike the imaginary in-person voter fraud. And a lot of people don’t have driver’s license as potential form of ID.

    Also, people would have to decide to go online, rather than just sign when presented with petition.


    One flaw in your theory: if the union cared enough to hold a grudge against Larchuk for making a legal court challenge of petitions, they should have worked harder to get Erin more signatures in the first place.

    Erin was on the picket line with then last year, and they couldn’t get her 2,000 signatures this year? Sounds like they weren’t being loyal to her when she needed them in the first place.

    The unions seem to have less political power each year, and less reason to be sought/feared. Even if they blamed Larchuk, they haven’t proven their support means a damn thing if they couldn’t get Erin a huge signature margin to avoid the challenge.

  19. Someday PA will put petitions online. Then each duly registered voter can log in securely and only sign for up to the number of candidates and in the districts to which they are constituent.

    Until then, we will all keep wasting time and cash on this obsolete method of hand collecting ink signatures.

  20. It is getting very close, but if the quality of the signatures were that bad, it would be over by now. He might squeak out enough to get her below 1000, but at what cost? Why would any Erin McClelland supporter support this guy instead?

    The signatures Erin McClelland were questioned about came from union members according to the article. Do you think any union member would support him, after he questioned their integrity? What other Democratic volunteers is he also questioning?

    I can just see people working the polls saying this to voters in November: Vote for X for President, Y for Senate and don’t vote for this guy for Congress, he is an a$$hole.

  21. I did find this news account of the proceedings:

    Sounds like it was quite a battle and still going onto March 28th.

    Apparently, the count was down to 1,032 at the end of the day, with more to go.

    One of the issues in question was who circulated the petitions. According to the article, Erin herself was listed as the circulator, but others actually gathered the signatures. The explanation was that Erin was nearby and supervising the signature process.

    It wasn’t clear from the article if the judge ruled that was okay, or if he was just taking testimony and going to make a ruling later.

    I guess it comes down to how flexible/rigorous the definition of “circulator” is. Is this unique?

    First I’ve ever heard of “supervisor” interpretation. Has this ever happened before, and if not, would this set a precedent?

  22. Porter Randolph-

    I don’t know the reason behind Erin’s purported problems, but too many candidates rely on scam artists posing as professional petition circulators, and then pay them per signature (typically $1 apiece). This can be solved by a simple payment method

    $1 valid signature that survives challenge
    -$.25 cents per challenged or invalid signature.

    This removes the incentive to cheat, because no one gets paid until petition challenges are completed.

    In Erin’s case (assuming Larchuk’s challenges are valid), instead of circulator getting $1,245
    $535 – 1/4 of $710 = $357.5

    That’s a big difference, and not worth the trouble of submitting fakes you won’t get paid for when you only get paid for real ones (and are charged for fakes).


    What was the status at the end of court today? There’s no update here.

  23. There is no question that campaigns can be sloppy with the petition gathering operation. Going door-to-door is the best method. But it can be time-consuming and often the contact rates are bad, or sometimes voters are misinformed thinking their petition signature requires them to vote for the candidate. So I can understand why campaigns resort to standing outside supermarkets or public transit stations collecting signatures.

  24. Chris…thanks for ‘reaching out” while we were all in court. Much appreciated.

  25. Observer said “Erin has been all over Facebook posting pictures of herself with the challenged signers – making Larchuk look like the idiot”. She posted exactly 2 pictures, they challenged over 700 of her signatures. That’s .00285% of the challenges. Porter Randolph is right on the money. If you’re not organized enough to get your petitions signed then you have no business running. Larchuk did a post recently that said McClelland pulled 206 of her signatures in question which leaves her with very little margin of error.

  26. That old turd Larchuckie is the one who needs to drop out. They invented a TON of those challenges out of whole cloth. Erin has been all over Facebook posting pictures of herself with the challenged signers – making Larchuk look like the idiot he is. Rothfus already HAS the Idiot vote locked up – Larchuk cannot win in November. Erin may get to file for attorney’s fees for this scam lawsuit.

  27. I’ll never understand why these campaigns struggle so much with petition gathering. The lists of registered voters are available and can be easily sorted to zero in on the households with the most registered voters from a particular party. Everyone knows that in a contested contest, submitting barely over the minimum is going to draw a challenge. I feel that these campaigns are disorganized, lazy, or both. You can’t just go the mall or a train station and expect good results. If you go this route, you’d better submit 3 times the minimum and hope no one wants to take the time to review your crappy effort.

  28. Tim-

    Thanks. That was helpful. So, Larchuk needs to prevail on only 246 bad ones out of the 710 he’s challenged.

    1,245 is really cutting it close for a 1,000 threshold.

    Lindy Li submitted nearly double (2,470) and she might not have enough.

  29. According to the Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown:

    Earlier this week, Steven Larchuk and five other Allegheny County residents, had Pittsburgh attorney Barbara Ernsberger file papers to challenge 710 of the 1,245 petition signatures submitted by Larchuk’s opponent, Erin McClelland. If the court rules enough of them invalid, McClelland could slip below the 1,000-signature threshold required for her name to appear on the ballot.

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