Diamond Fails to Qualify in Pennsylvania

Unfortunate news from Pennsylvania, it appears that independent gubernatorial candidate Russ Diamond will fall very far short of the number of signatures needed to qualify for a spot on the ballot.

From the Post-Gazette...

Time is running out on Russ Diamond, an independent candidate for governor.

Tuesday is the deadline for Mr. Diamond and his supporters to collect at least 67,070 signatures to get on the November ballot.

But as of yesterday, he had only a little more than 26,000.

“It doesn’t look promising,” admitted Mr. Diamond, a Lebanon County businessman and political reform activist.

“I probably won’t be on the ballot. I have no expectations [of doing so] at this point,” even as petitions continue to trickle in through the mail from volunteers across the state.

Ever since the now-repealed General Assembly pay raise was passed last July, Mr. Diamond has actively campaigned for reforming state government.

Last July, he founded PACleanSweep, a statewide citizens group dedicated to ousting all incumbent legislators.

Mr. Diamond intended for his gubernatorial campaign to keep pushing for government reform, accountability and credibility. He also supported elimination of property taxes and the repeal of the 2004 slots law—not because he is against slots but because he didn’t like the way the law was passed.

Like the pay raise, the slots law was approved in July 2004 in the middle of the night with little legislative debate or public input.

Mr. Diamond said that gathering so many signatures—67,070—is “a huge hurdle” for any independent candidate to clear. Major party candidates, such as Democrats and Republicans, only need 2,000 signatures to run for governor.

Mr. Diamond thinks the ballot access law is part of the wrong-headed nature of state politics that he’d like to change.

According to a state law passed in the mid-1980s, third party and independent candidates for statewide office must gather a number of signatures equal to 2 percent of the total votes received by the highest vote-getter in the previous statewide election.

That vote-getter was state Treasurer Bob Casey Jr., who won the 2004 election with more than 3.3 million votes. Never before have Pennsylvania ballot hopefuls had to gather so many signatures.

“They make it so difficult to get on the ballot, it’s mind-numbing,” said Ken Krawchuk, the Libertarian Party candidate for governor in 2002 who now advises other candidates on how to petition for ballot access.

Besides gathering a lot of signatures, he said, minor candidates must be prepared to defend those signatures from challenges by the major parties. Republicans and Democrats scrutinize petitions closely to find signatures that don’t qualify and prevent candidates from making the ballot, he said.

“Having challenged and been challenged in the past, I think that even if [Mr. Diamond] turned in 70,000 signatures, the chances of him withstanding challenges are still very, very low,” Mr. Krawchuk said.

The state constitution “says all elections must be fair and equal,” Mr. Krawchuk said. “But it’s obvious that some political parties are more equal than others.”

Richard Winger, editor of the online publication Ballot Access News, said that Pennsylvania ranks as one of the most restrictive states in the country in terms of ballot access.

He predicted that nonmajor parties—both the Green and Constitution parties are trying to field gubernatorial candidates—will not gather enough signatures. That would make Pennsylvania one of only two or three states in the country to have only the two major parties on its statewide ballot.

Mr. Diamond is still hoping to see a surge in last-minute signature gathering as Tuesday’s deadline nears, but so far that hasn’t happened.

“If a lot suddenly come in, I will be pleasantly surprised,” he said. “If not, I will go back to throwing rocks from the side of the road” as an activist.

If nothing else, Mr. Diamond thinks his effort will help to educate many voters about the state’s restrictive ballot access laws.

“What we did do is open a lot of people’s eyes to how limited their options are,” he said.

If he hadn’t tried, he said, “People would have gone on thinking everything was fine and dandy.”

8 Responses to “Diamond Fails to Qualify in Pennsylvania”

  1. Ryan Brennan (ThirdPartyNews.net) Says:

    This is a sad state of affairs for political freedom and choice in the electoral process in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania, my homestate, has some of the most restrictive ballot access laws in the country.

    Russ Diamond had a lot of support for his organized protest – PA Clean Sweep (http://www.pacleansweep.com) – against the pay raise the legislators voted themselves unconstitutionally. I’m sure he would have shook things up real good in the PA political atmosphere if he’d be able to run a campaign for governor.

    This leaves me with the following question:

    What if the Pennsylvania Libertarian Party gets enough signatures to be qualified and Diamond could become the Libertarian candidate for governor?

    As of now the Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania only has a paper candidate for governor. And Russ Diamond has run as a Libertarian in the past. I don’t know what the deadline is for the nomination process, but this would seem to be a very viable option for Russ to still be able to run. I would think he would garner widespread support from Libertarians. And furthermore, perhaps there would be a good chance of him being in the gubernatorial debates running as a Libertarian, seeing that the last PA gubernatorial candidate, Ken Krawchuk, appeared in the debates.

    Does anyone know if this would be a possibility at this time?

  2. NewFederalist Says:

    I don’t know about the legalities of your idea but I sure agree with you that it would be great if he could be a “replacement candidate” for the LP. It might have to do with how he is currently registered and how long he has been registered that way (Non-Partisan vs. Libertarian for example).

  3. Richard Winger Says:

    The Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania probably will nominate Diamond for Governor, if the 3rd circuit rules that the 3 qualified minor parties of Pennsylvania don’t need any signatures. The decision could come out at any time.

  4. NewFederalist Says:

    Thanks for the info, Richard! I hope the court gives us relief.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Diamond should work on converting PA Clean Sweep into a new party and perhaps run next time around (his mojo will probably be tapped out though)

  6. Donald Raymond Lake Says:

    Clean Sweep as yet another impotent one state minor party? Better yet, associate (election to election) or affiliate (more permanently) with the Jesse Ventura inspired American Reform Party. ARP is currently administered out of New Jersey and has a relatively strong branch in Pennsylvania.
    (ARP, PA and nationally, endorsed Russ Diamond previously.)
    Hope the Lib connection works out in 2006. How ever when I chatted with Russ Diamond on Monday (YESTERDAY) he was holding his cards close to the vest and all but indicated that the campaign was over. Hope this patriot and corruption fighter was just being coy.

  7. Russ Diamond Says:

    The notion of a viable 3rd party is enticing. HOWEVER, what happens when that even comes close to happening? Infiltration by the duopoly.

    Much better to infiltrate THEM. That’s PACleanSweep.

    We’ve shown they’re vulnerable, but they’ll be more prepared next time. The stakes are raised for 2008.

  8. Lee Says:

    My thoughts were the same as Ryans,its a violation of our choice,and a monopoly by the two so called mainstream parties,when independents have to dig up a bunch of signatures,but Dems and Reps just “appoint” their choice,I am activly involved fighting the USDA and state Ag dept mandate of the National Animal ID system which Rendell supports,I contacted the Casey and Swann campaigns and neither would talk to me ,we need a good third party in Pa,but it seems that those in power do all they can to block any viable challenges,I hope this trend can be reversed in Pa and the other states! PS: Just in case anyone is curious about NAIS check out www.nonais.org ,thanks!

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