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Lehigh County candidate who missed deadline will not be on primary ballot, judge rules

By Graysen Golter, The Morning Call,

Allentown School Board Member Patrick Palmer. April Gamiz/The Morning Call/TNS

An Allentown Democrat who accused Lehigh County of causing him to miss the election nomination filing deadline for a district judge race will not be on the May primary ballot, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Patrick Palmer, a member of the Allentown School Board, was seeking the Democratic nomination for district judge in District 31-1-09, according to his Thursday complaint against the Lehigh County Board of Elections and its chief clerk, Timothy Benyo.

The deadline to file nomination petitions was 4 p.m. March 7.

The complaint states that around 3:53 p.m. March 7, Palmer went to pay the $50 filing fee in the county government center’s fiscal office, and experienced a delay in the receipt of payment. An employee told him he had to wait for the receipt before going to the elections office.

When he arrived at the elections office with his receipt just after 4 p.m., he was told he could no longer file nomination petitions.

The complaint states the instruction Palmer received at the fiscal office was an error that prevented him from making the filing deadline.

Judge Thomas Capehart ultimately denied the complaint and request, writing in an opinion that the untimely filing was not caused by misinformation from an employee but by Palmer’s not arriving at the government center with enough time to allow for payment processing.

Palmer told The Morning Call on Tuesday he was disappointed in the ruling, adding that he was otherwise completely ready to go with his paperwork.

Palmer’s election challenge was among several that have been filed, although the others seek to remove a candidate from the ballot, not add one.

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Lehigh County Deputy Solicitor Sarah Murray said several other election challenges have either been processed or are still outstanding. Tuesday was the deadline to challenge the petitions.

On Tuesday, Michelle Graupner’s challenge of Marjulee Colon’s petition for clerk of judicial records was dismissed. Graupner is a Democrat and Colon is a Republican; Murray said they would have to be of the same party to appeal a primary petition.

Palmer filed a challenge of Democrat Mark McCants’ petition for the district judge seat; a hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

Republican Tina Jo Koren’s petition in the Whitehall Township mayor’s race is being challenged by Republican voter Kade Marx; a hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday. Koren is one of two Republicans seeking the nomination; the other is John Hersh.

Democratic incumbent Michael Harakal withdrew his petition last week , leaving Joseph Marx and Michael Cocca on the ballot in that primary race.

Joseph Marx, the president of the Whitehall Board of Commissioners, is Kade’s father. Joseph said he and Kade discussed filing the challenge to Koren beforehand, but that he didn’t influence his son’s decision.

For Allentown City Council, Democrat Rodney Bushe has filed a challenge of Candida Affa’s petition. No hearing has been scheduled yet.

Finally, a hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday to hear Kyle Miller and Donna Miller’s challenge of Keith Morris’ petition for district judge in District 31-1-08. Morris cross-filed as both a Democrat and a Republican.

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