Campaigns & Elections

Five For Friday: Petition edition

City & State examines some of the biggest storylines and surprises following the state’s nominating petition deadline.

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The 2024 election season is officially underway now that the deadline to file for Pennsylvania’s April 23 primary has passed. Candidates across the commonwealth had to submit signature-filled petitions in order to qualify for the ballot, giving us the first opportunity to see what potential matchups will be taking place at the local, state and congressional levels. 

City & State has your Five for Friday, taking a look at some of the unexpected updates to come out of the candidate petition filing period. 

Congressional primary challenges

Several members of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation will face primary challenges this spring, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State’s candidate database. On the Democratic side of the aisle, U.S. Reps. Dwight Evans and Summer Lee will face primary challengers, as will Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly. Evans is facing a challenge from former Philadelphia Register of Wills Tracey Gordon, while Lee is facing two challenges – one from Laurie MacDonald, the president and CEO of the Pittsburgh-based Center for Victims, and another from Bhavani Patel, who is a member of Edgewood Borough Council in Allegheny County. In the GOP primary, Kelly will face a challenge from Tim Kramer, who coordinates a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program through the United Way, according to Politics PA

Signature snafus

The act of signature gathering during the petition process can, at times, lead to some controversy. Such controversy occurred in several areas of the state this week, spanning from Lancaster County to the Lehigh Valley. In Easton, a petition submitted by Easton City Councilmember Taiba Sultana reportedly included a signature from state Sen. Lisa Boscola, who pushed back and said that the signature wasn’t hers – and that the address listed was incorrect. Sultana has said she didn’t knowingly submit a false signature and attributed the mistake to a prank. Elsewhere, Chester County Court of Common Pleas Judge Alita Rovito’s signature was seen on a petition for Democrat Mark Pinsley, who is running for auditor general, though Avito told The Philadelphia Inquirer that the signature isn’t hers. According to the paper, Pinsley’s campaign is launching an internal investigation into the signature. And in the race for U.S. Senate in the commonwealth, Republican Brandi Tomasetti told a reporter from LNP that the Department of State rejected the 2,000 signatures she submitted, but that she is seeking to have the decision overruled by the Commonwealth Court. 

From Johnny Doc to … Seany Doc?

There could be another Dougherty in the Pennsylvania political scene if all goes well for Sean Dougherty. Dougherty, who is a former public defender, the nephew of former Philadelphia labor leader John Dougherty and the son of Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty, will be a candidate in the Democratic primary for a 172nd state House District. Dougherty will challenge incumbent state Rep. Kevin Boyle in the Democratic primary. Sure to be a topic during the primary campaign: a viral video circulated this month showing Boyle yelling and cursing at people inside a Montgomery County bar. Republicans Aizaz Gill and Patrick Gushue are also vying for the seat, according to the Department of State.  

McCormick, Vodvarka will face off in U.S. Senate GOP primary

Tomasetti’s status in the Republican U.S. Senate primary may be in question right now, but Republican candidate and former hedge fund executive Dave McCormick will still have some competition in the GOP primary. According to the Department of State, Joseph Vodvarka of McKees Rocks, Allegheny County will be running against McCormick this spring. A recent poll from Franklin & Marshall College showed McCormick with support from 35% of voters in a head-to-head match-up with Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey. 

Democrats have a choice between Biden, Phillips

President Joe Biden may be running for reelection, but Democrats in Pennsylvania will have at least one other choice for president when they head to the polls in April. Democrat Dean Phillips, a U.S. representative from Minnesota, is running for the Democratic nomination as an alternative to Biden, meaning Democrats will have two options for the Oval Office on the ballot. On the Republican side, former President Donald Trump and his former ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, are slated to appear on the primary ballot – assuming Haley continues her campaign past Super Tuesday.