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Election challenges filed in Franklin County

March 16, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Challenges against the nominating petitions of two candidates in the May 17 primary were filed Tuesday in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.

Waynesboro Ward 1 Borough Councilman Charles McCammon on Tuesday filed a challenge to the petition of his Republican opponent, claiming that Ronald B. "Ronnie" Martin does not live in Waynesboro.

Marlin Wagner of Chambersburg challenged the nominating petition for the Democratic primary candidacy of Robert Helman, the Region 1 director for the Chambersburg Area School District. Wagner claims that Helman, a Republican, circulated the Democratic petition, not the person who signed the affidavit as the circulator.

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McCammon, a two-term Democrat and president of the council, filed a petition with the Prothonotary's Office claiming that Martin does not live at 66 State Hill Road, but at 114 Barnett Ave. in Washington Township. Martin changed his registration from Barnett Avenue to State Hill Road on June 11, 2004, according to the Franklin County Voter Registration Office.

Martin said Tuesday he had not seen the petition and would not comment.

McCammon said a house Martin is building on State Hill Road is not occupied.

"I've driven by at night and there's no lights on other than the two lights outside," McCammon said. Martin did not have the required sewer permit to live in the house, according to McCammon.

Martin was issued a sewer permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection for his State Hill Road property on March 1, according to records obtained at Borough Hall Tuesday night.

McCammon, who is also the judge of elections for the second precinct in Ward 1, said Martin did not vote at the precinct in the November election.

According to voter registration records, however, Martin did apply for an absentee ballot in the November election. The application, dated Sept. 9, requested that the ballot be sent to 114 Barnett Ave.

The ballot was mailed to that address on Oct. 15, according to county records.

Candidates for borough council must be residents of the borough for at least one year prior to the general election in which they are running, according to the Pennsylvania Borough Code. That would mean a candidate for this year's general election would have had to have been a resident in November 2004.

Wagner stated in his filing that Helman circulated the Democratic petition, not Doug Harbach, who signed as the circulator. In the filing, Wagner stated he had spoken with 11 of the 15 people who signed the petition and all said Helman circulated the document.

School board candidates can cross-file to run in both primaries in Pennsylvania, but state election law states the candidate can circulate petitions only among voters registered in his or her party. The petition for the other political party must be circulated on the candidate's behalf by someone registered with that party.

Rena Edwards of Chambersburg said Tuesday she and her son both signed the petition and that it was Helman who presented it to them, not Harbach.

Helman admitted he circulated the petition.

"I've done the same thing that I've done every other year ... It's just that everything is controversial right now," said Helman, who is in his 12th year on the board. He faces a primary challenge from Paul Ambrose, who cross-filed to run in both the Republican and Democratic primaries.

"I couldn't find an attorney who would take it so I up and filed it myself," Wagner said of the challenge. "Eleven signers told me Bob Helman gave them the petition."

Helman said he did not know if he will contest the petition challenge.

"I'm not going to pay a lawyer, that's for sure," he said.

Wagner did not file a challenge to Helman's Republican petition.

Wagner is a plaintiff in a lawsuit claiming the district violated the state's Sunshine Law last year when it voted to incur $116 million in debt for a building program. He said he opposes Helman because the program will increase property taxes substantially.

"People are going to find out too late their taxes have jumped tremendously," he said.

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