Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sestak gets challenger kicked off Primary ballot


UPDATED: Sestak knocks Vod Varka off ballot

By Alex Roarty
PoliticsPA Staff Writer

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Joe Vod Varka on Tuesday was kicked off the May 18 primary ballot after a petition challenge from fellow Democrat Joe Sestak, a move that could help the former Navy admiral defeat incumbent Arlen Specter but also leave him vulnerable to criticism over the hardball tactic.

A Commonwealth Court judge ruled that Vod Varka’s petition contained fewer than the 2,000 valid-signature threshold necessary for ballot placement, meaning a write-in campaign is his only option left.

Vod Varka’s campaign had been almost completely off the radar until he unexpectedly filed enough signatures, at the time at least, to be placed on the ballot. The Western Pennsylvania native’s platform consisted mostly of conservative ideas, such as lowering government spending and ending gun control laws, and he had drawn support from some “Tea Party” groups.

Although he was unlikely to receive more than a tiny slice of the total votes cast, Vod Varka’s removal from the ballot could help Sestak win a greater share of voters bent on voting out Specter.

But Sestak might also have opened himself up to criticism because his own campaign against Specter was built on the premise that Democratic voters deserved a choice in the primary. The Specter campaign had already called Sestak’s challenge “a vivid example of old style back-room politics as usual.”

UPDATE: Sestak attorney Manly Parks defended the petition challenge, saying the minimum-signature law was in place to make sure candidates who appeared on the ballot had sufficient support.

“We certainly believe it’s entirely appropriate and fair that every candidate demonstrate that they reach that threshold,” he told PoliticsPA. “Otherwise, you’re just creating exceptions for people not to have to comply with the elction code.”

Still, the Specter campaign criticized Sestak for Vod Varka’s removal and once again took aim at his staffers’ salaries, which has been one of the incumbent’s favorite issues this campaign.

“The people, specifically Democratic Primary voters, should have decided whether Mr. Vodvarka was worthy of support, not Joe Sestak and the court system,” said Specter camapign manager Chris Nicholas in a statement. “And Cong. Sestak was happy to pay big bucks to his lawyers to knock a regular guy like Joe Vodvarka off the ballot, but he’s not willing to pay the minimum wage to his own campaign employees.”

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