Rivera withdraws from 158th ballot, will run as write-in

Challenges over nominating petitions push GOP candidate off primary ballot

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times


Lenny Rivera, the Republican candidate for State House in the 158th District with drew his ballot position over challenges to his nominating petitions and will run as a write-in, instead.

Updated 6:20 p.m. with comments from Democratic County Chair Brian McGinnis

NEW GARDEN — Lenny Rivera, the Republican candidate for State House in the 158th District, announced Wednesday that he would withdraw his nominating petitions for a position on the ballot and instead run a write-in campaign for the GOP nod in the April primary election, leaving both parties blaming each other for the situation.

Rivera’s petitions were challenged when questions arose over whether the candidate himself had circulated all of his petitions personally — as his notarized signature on the forms indicated — or not. The matter was expected to face a court hearing Thursday.

This marks the second time in two years that Republicans have found themselves facing a crisis with its candidate in the 158th District. In 2014, GOP candidate Cuyler Walker withdrew from the race in late September and was ultimately replaced by long-time and current State Rep. Chris Ross, who went on to defeat Democrat Susan Rzucidlo, who is running again this year.

“My opponent’s supporters challenged my petitions on technical grounds,” Rivera said in a statement issued Wednesday.  “Rather than divert my attention from the race and waste the time of our courts by fighting the challenge, I have chosen to withdraw my petition to be placed on the Primary Ballot and focus on winning the Republican Primary through a write-in effort.”

Rzucidlo, though, put the onus on Rivera for allegedly mishandling his nominating petitions — noting that as an attorney, Rivera should have understood what he was doing.

“It is unfortunate that Val DiGiorgio and Lenny Rivera feel the need to attack me and my campaign because of their shortcomings,” she said. “It was their own illegal and unethical actions in this most basic part of the campaign that created this unfortunate situation. The voters of the 158th district deserve representatives who follow the law and who will perform their duties ethically.”

An angry Chester County Republican Chair Val DiGiorgio blasted Rzucidlo and county Democrats for playing politics.

“The Democrats would rather play political games than run a campaign on the issues,” DiGiorgio said in a statement Wednesday.  “I’m not surprised.  Susan Rzucidlo and her supporters have no interest in talking about their support of Governor Wolf’s proposed budget which would levy massive tax increases on families and seniors in the 158th State House District and around the Commonwealth. Instead, Rzucidlo’s campaign would seek to take away voter choice in this election so that she might actually be successful in her 4th attempt for this office.  Lenny Rivera will not let that happen, and the Republican Party will ensure he is victorious on Tuesday, November 8th.  We look forward to the campaign.”

Brian McGinnis, chair of the county;s Democratic Party had a different take on the events.

“Voters should evaluate and choose elected officials based on their trustworthiness and their ability to make good judgments and follow the rule of law,” McGinnis said in a statement.  “Republican candidate for the 158th Lenny Rivera chose to ignore and/or violate election laws with regard to the submission of signatures in the nominating petition process. 

This is not just bad behavior for a state legislator candidate; in doing so, he knowingly made sworn false statements to a public notary, a second degree misdemeanor (18 Pa.C.S. § 4904).  This illegal behavior should not be rewarded with a free pass to be on the ballot April 26, and should his expected write-in campaign be successful, voters should seriously question his honesty and integrity on November 8th, particularly given the current lack of trust state voters have in their legislators in Harrisburg to pass a realistic budget.”

McGinnis said he didn’t think it was fair for Republicans to take umbrage at a legal challenge to one of their candidates petitions, either.

“Democrats play by the rules; so should the Republicans, especially given their previous abuse of the election schedule in withdrawing a flawed candidate for the 158th two months after the state-mandated deadline and inserting one who did not go through the primary process in 2014,” McGinnis said.  “For Val DiGiorgio to say that Democrats are “playing political games” is disingenuous.”

He also expressed confidence that Rzucidlo was the stronger candidate and would succeed in November. 

“Susan Rzucidlo is a strong advocate for those in society least able to care for themselves,” McGinnis said.  “She has demonstrated integrity, knowledge of voter issues, made clear her positions, and conducted several hard, well-run campaigns against Chris Ross, a moderate Republican incumbent. The retiring Ross may have deserved and received a pass to go to Commonwealth Court to have his name insertedon the November 2014 ballot after all reasonable deadlines had passed and absentee ballots had to be retrieved, reprinted and mailed at taxpayer expense.  But Lenny Rivera has a process to follow and had plenty of time to do it correctly.  Any additional effort required on his behalf to get on the general election ballot because of failure to follow the law is his own fault.”

Rivera thanked his campaign volunteers and pledged to keep on fighting for the seat.

“I appreciate the great work my volunteers have put into this race, and I look forward to doubling my efforts to earn the support of the residents of the 158th State House District.”

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One Comment

  1. Carl says:

    Embarrassing. 158th again!

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