Original jurisdiction in cases of In Re: Nomination Petition of Dick Vidmer, Candidate for the Democratic Nomination for Representative in the General Assembly from the 26th District and In Re: Nomination Petition of Richard F. Vidmer, Candidate for election of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Thomas B. Schmidt, III, Pepper, Hamilton & Scheetz, with him David L. Robinson, for petitioners.
John F. Lyons, for respondent.
Judge MacPhail. Opinion by Judge MacPhail.
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Two identical petitions have been filed to set aside nomination petitions bearing the name of the candidate
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as "Richard F. Vidmer" but the candidate's affidavit bears the name and signature of "Dick Vidmer". No formal objection has been made to the nomination petition because of the discrepancy and we are well-satisfied that Dick Vidmer and Richard F. Vidmer are one and the same person. We shall treat both petitions to set aside as one.
At the hearing before this Court on March 22, 1982, Mr. Vidmer first challenged our jurisdiction to hear this matter, contending that proper jurisdiction lies with the court of common pleas. He contends that jurisdiction is vested in that court by Section 977 of the Pennsylvania Election Code (Election Code), Act of June 3, 1937, P.L. 1333, as amended, 25 P.S. § 2937. Prior to 1974, challenges to nomination petitions were directed by Section 977 of the Election Code to be filed with the court of common pleas of the county where the nomination petition was filed. As amended, Section 977 now requires such challenges to be filed with the "court". By virtue of Section 764(2) of the Judicial Code, 42 Pa. C.S. § 764(2) this Court was vested with exclusive jurisdiction of all matters arising in the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth "relating to Statewide office." While the statutory language may seem facially to restrict our jurisdiction to state-wide contests such as governor, appellate court judges, etc., it is clear that the intent of the Legislature was to confer jurisdiction on this Court in all election matters where a State, as opposed to a county or municipal, office was at issue and where nomination petitions for such offices were filed with the Secretary of the Commonwealth. That "State offices" include State senators and representatives is evident from the language found in Section 913(e) of the Election Code, 25 P.S. § 2873(e), where it is provided in pertinent part that
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"[n]omination petitions in the case of candidates for . . . all State offices, including senators, representatives and judges of courts of record . . . shall be filed with the Secretary of the Commonwealth." (Emphasis added.) The obvious reason for this Court to handle such matters is its accessibility for state election officials such as the Secretary of the Commonwealth. At least since 1976, this Court has handled all such election matters pertaining to nomination petitions for State senators and representatives and to retreat from that position now would inject chaos into what is an orderly process. This we need not do by virtue of the statutory construction which we have placed upon the language set forth in Section 764(2). We will, accordingly, affirm our denial of Vidmer's objection to our jurisdiction.
Two other matters deserve brief attention before we reach the substantive issue raised by the petition to set aside the nominating petitions. Petitioners subpoenaed and called as their witness Mrs. Vidmer, the wife of the candidate. Counsel for the candidate objected to having Mrs. Vidmer testify because her testimony would be privileged as a confidential communication between spouses under Section 5923 of the Judicial Code, 42 Pa. C.S. § 5923. Since the privilege was not asserted by Mrs. Vidmer personally and since none of her testimony would fall within the category of a confidential communication, we affirm herewith our ruling at the hearing which overruled the objection.*fn1
During the course of Mrs. Vidmer's testimony, reference was made to certain matters the witness was directed to bring ...