Original Jurisdiction in the case of In Re: Nomination Petition of T. Milton Street as Candidate for the Democratic Nomination for Representative in the General Assembly from the 196th Representative District -- Objection of Ruth B. Harper.
Rotan E. Lee, with him, David L. Hyman, Burrell, Waxman, Donaghy & Lee, for petitioner.
Gregory E. Smith, Sugarman & Hellegers, for respondent.
Judge Doyle. Opinion by Judge Doyle.
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Currently before us is a Petition to Set Aside the nomination petition of T. Milton Street (Candidate), as a candidate for the Democratic nomination to the office of Representative in the General Assembly from the 196th Legislative District (Philadelphia) filed by the incumbent Representative, Mrs. Ruth B. Harper (Petitioner).
The issue before us presented by the Petition to Set Aside is whether there is a defect in the Candidate's nomination petition or, specifically, whether Mr. Street's candidate's affidavit accompanying his petition contains a false statement. The affidavit of the Candidate contains, inter alia, two statements which if either was proven false, would cause his petition to be set aside. The statements in the affidavit are first, that on March 11, 1986, Mr. Street's residence was 3752 Germantown
[ 102 Pa. Commw. Page 157]
Avenue, Philadelphia, and secondly, that the Candidate was "an inhabitant of the electorial district . . . one year next before the election."
The Candidate raised an initial challenge to our jurisdiction in this matter, contending that this Court is barred from reviewing the constitutional qualifications of any candidate by the holding of In Re Jones, 505 Pa. 50, 476 A.2d 1287 (1984). The case at bar, however, is clearly distinguishable from Jones, as it does not concern an a priori inquiry into the qualifications of a member of the General Assembly, but rather makes a specific challenge to the veracity of statements contained in the affidavit of a candidate. The argument advanced by the objectors in the Jones case, as framed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, was that even if the candidate won both the primary and the general election, the next duly constituted Senate might refuse to seat her, if they concluded that the candidate, who would then be an elected member of that body, had not met all of the qualifications set forth in Article 2, Section 5 of the Constitution of Pennsylvania. Id. at 55, 476 A.2d at 1289. The particular qualification which the candidate in Jones allegedly would not fulfill was the requirement that she reside in her district for one year next before the general election.
In rejecting this argument, the Jones Court stated that neither Article 2 of the Constitution in its entirety, nor Section 5 specifically, conferred authority on the courts to inquire into the qualifications of one seeking to run for office, Id. at 62, 472 A.2d at 1293. The Court further noted that the legislature had not expressly attempted to confer such power, id., and that Section 977 of the Pennsylvania Election Code (Election Code),*fn1 25 P.S. § 2937 was the sole and exclusive remedy for challenging
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a person's right to run for political office in Pennsylvania. Id. at 65 n. 13, 476 A.2d at 1294 n. 13.
Since the holding of Jones, however, the legislature has specifically addressed this deficiency of power in the courts by amending Section 910*fn2 of the Election Code to require that:
In cases of petitions for candidates for the General Assembly, the candidate's affidavit shall state (1) that the candidate will satisfy the eligibility requirements contained in Sections 5 and 7 of Article II of the Constitution of Pennsylvania [and] . . . (3) that the candidate shall have been a citizen and inhabitant of Pennsylvania four (4) years and an inhabitant of the respective district one (1) year ...