By Charlie Deitch
Pittsburgh Current Editor
Despite striking the majority of her contested election petition signatures, a Commonwealth Court Judge ruled late Friday that controversial candidate, Heather Kass will remain on the June 2 Primary ballot.
Voter Thomas Wagner, who lives in District 36, filed the challenged the validity of about 360 signatures on the petition of Heather Kass, the controversial candidate running to replace retired Rep. Harry Readshaw. Some were challenged because they were circulated by a person who is not a registered Democrat and many others were challenged for various reasons, including faulty addresses and information being added in by persons other than the signator.
A hearing took place on March 11 and of Kass’ petition had 642 signatures on it. Judge Patty McCullough found that 336 signatures, more than half were invalid for various reasons. The threshold to get on the ballot is 300 signatures. the Judge ruled Kass had 306 valid signatures, enough for her to remain.
Yesterday, March 26, the Current wrote about the unusually long delay to get a ruling in the case. The next day, McCullough released her 38-page opinion.
“Candidate has 306 valid signatures, which is in excess of the required 300 signatures. … The Petition to Set Aside the Nomination Petition of Heather Kass is denied. The Secretary of the Commonwealth is directed to certify Heather Kass as a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for Representative in the 36th Legislative District, in the primary election to be held on April 28, 2020,” McCullough wrote.
This challenge was one of several oddities in the race to replace Readshaw in the 36th. Last fall, progressive candidate Jessica Benham announced her challenge to Readshaw and was the only candidate until earlier this year when Readshaw announced his retirement. A short time later, Kass entered the race with endorsements from Readshaw and City Councilor Anthony Coghill. On January 20, the Pittsburgh Current first reported about social media posts from Kass over the past five years that showed support for President Donald Trump, made light of gender identity and common-sense gun control, called people on public assistance “lazy idiots” and said drug addicts should die so there would be “less shit in the world.”
Oddly enough, however, this was not the strangest part of the story. On Feb. 16, the Allegheny County Democratic Committee overwhelmingly endorsed Kass over Benham, apparently because Kass still had Readshaw’s backing. That led to bizarre press conferences, calls for resignations in party leadership, actual resignations from party leaders and a county party that was more fractured than it already was.
Benham remains in the race and has been running a strong grassroots campaign for more than six months.