Judge orders that candidate be removed from ballot | News, Sports, Jobs

BELLEFONTE — A Punxsutawney man will be removed from the primary ballot prior to Election Day.

A Commonwealth Court judge has ordered that a challenger to Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Howard Township), in the Republican primary for the 15th Congressional District be removed from the ballot.

According to published reports, George Rathmell of Punxsutawney incorrectly stated his occupation and did not meet the required threshold of 1,000 valid signatures on nominating petitions. Senior Judge Mary Hannah Levitt ruled in a memorandum opinion, which was filed last week.

Objectors Pat Saylor and Carol Gingrich challenged Rathmell’s nomination petition as “fatally flawed in its entirety,” and challenged the validity of more than 400 of the 1,306 nominating signatures collected by the candidate.

Rathmell listed Army chaplain, pastor and volunteer as his occupation. However, Leavitt wrote, Rathmell has not been in the Army for 30 years and election code requires candidates to state their current occupation.

He argued that he was never stripped of his title as Army chaplain and that he received no instruction that he could not list the occupation from which he was retired.

Leavitt found that the misstated occupation alone was enough to disqualify Rathmell’s nomination petition.

“A former occupation is not a current occupation,” Leavitt wrote. “Because Candidate’s Nomination Petition bears a facial defect that is material and incurable, Objectors have met their burden of disproving the presumptive validity of Candidate’s Nomination Petition.”

In reviewing challenges to signatures, 376 were ultimately stricken for a variety of reasons, which would bring Rathmell’s total to 932 — 68 short of the required amount. Challenges included signatures from people who were not registered Republicans or not registered to vote, information written in a different hand than the signature, signers who used a different address than where they are registered, illegible signatures, signatures of nicknames and initials, elector counties that did not match the counties listed on the page and other missing and incomplete information.

“The Secretary of the Commonwealth is directed to remove the name of George Rathmell as a Republican Candidate for Representative in Congress From the 15th Congressional District from the May 17, 2022, General Primary Election ballot,” Leavitt wrote in the order.

Thompson is now the lone candidate on the ballot for the 15th Congressional District. The district, which is newly defined under a map selected by the state Supreme Court in February, reunites all of Center County and also includes Armstrong, Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, McKean, Potter, Snyder, Tioga , Union, Warren and parts of Indiana, Lycoming and Venango counties.

No Democrat is on the ballot for the primary.

Thompson, 62, is a Center County native. He is seeking his eighth term in Congress and would become the longest tenured member of Pennsylvania’s delegation.

Primary Election Day will be held on Tuesday, May 17.

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