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At first glance, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady and Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board Chief Judge Mike Krancer may not seem to have much in common. Brady is the city Democratic Party chief with a blue-collar background who hopes to become Philadelphia’s mayor in 2008. He is easily one of the most powerful and well-known politicians in the region. The Republican Krancer is a Main Line native who was a partner at two white-shoe Center City firms before being appointed to the relatively obscure specialized trial court. If an average citizen does know who Krancer is, it’s likely only because Krancer has recently been campaigning for one of two open seats on the state Supreme Court. Yet Block 10 of the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission’s Statement of Financial Interests has broken down any political and socio-economic barriers that may have stood between them. Because of Block 10, both men (and their lawyers) will have to fight in court to save their respective candidacies. Pursuant to the state Public Official and Employee Ethics Act, any candidate for a statewide or local elected position has to submit the same financial disclosure statement as soon as he or she officially files to run. Block 10 is where the candidates are supposed to list “direct or indirect sources of income.” Brady is finding himself in hot political water after lawyers funded by opponent Tom Knox accused the congressman of failing to list in Block 10 alleged interests in carpenters’ union and city pension funds. Testimony elicited during a Tuesday hearing in the matter has left Brady vulnerable to a wave of rhetorical attacks from both Knox and a host of other critics. Next week, Krancer will appear before the Commonwealth Court to respond to accusations that Block 10 of his state Supreme Court candidacy’s financial statement was also improperly filled out. Krancer’s challenger is listed in court papers as Jaime Hughes-Harbson of Philadelphia, a Republican registered to vote in South Philadelphia’s 26th Ward. (Hughes-Harbson’s first name is also spelled “Jamie” in court papers.) Attempts to reach Hughes-Harbson yesterday were not successful. But sources say she is a former employee of the city’s Family Court — the same division of the city court system once headed by one of Krancer’s key opponents in this May’s Republican primary. Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Paul P. Panepinto, who now heads the city court system’s Complex Litigation Center, said that although he knows Hughes-Harbson from their overlapping time in Family Court, he’s not in any way involved in her legal challenge of his opponent’s candidacy. “She has her own lawyer and she communicates with her own lawyer about it,” Panepinto said. Here’s what Hughes-Harbson said in court papers about Krancer’s Block 10, which appears to list the commonwealth as his only direct or indirect source of income: “[Krancer's] current gross salary in his employment with the commonwealth pays approximately $127,000 annually,” wrote Hughes-Harbson’s lawyer, Karen Balaban of Harrisburg. “[Krancer] pays in excess of $42,000 annually in real estate taxes on his personal residence located in Lower Merion Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. [Krancer's] wife is not employed and identifies herself as a ‘homemaker’ or ‘housewife.’ Therefore, [Hughes- Harbson] believes that [Krancer] had direct or indirect income in 2006 [from] some other source.” Hughes-Harbson further asserted that even though Krancer indicated in Block 9 of his statement that he had no creditors in 2006, she believes that Krancer should have reported debts allegedly related to “car loans, credit cards, personal loans, school or education loan(s) and lines of credit.” According to Krancer’s biography on his court’s Web site, he and his wife are the parents of four children. Krancer and his lawyer, Lawrence Tabas of Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel in Philadelphia, have recently filed court papers to quash Hughes-Harbson’s subpoenas for Krancer’s income tax returns from the last two years. “The scope of these requests is highly improper and such requests are intended solely to harass [Krancer] while attempting to gain political advantage in the campaign,” Tabas wrote. “The two allegations contained in [Hughes-Harbson's court papers] are asserted without the basis of any evidence. … This indicates a political challenge based upon pure speculation.” Balaban did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment on the matter. In an interview yesterday, Krancer said that he would be present at the Commonwealth Court hearing in the case, scheduled for Tuesday morning in Harrisburg. “It’s a frivolous lawsuit, and we’re fighting it,” Krancer said. “We’re looking ahead toward beyond it.” He declined further comment on the matter. Krancer’s other Republican opponent, Superior Court Judge Maureen Lally-Green, declined to comment on the case. Krancer and Lally-Green have received the state Republican Party’s endorsements for the two open high court seats. In the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s evaluations of 2007′s state judicial candidates, Panepinto and Lally-Green were deemed “highly recommended,” while Krancer was listed as “recommended.” Tabas said he has been told that his client’s challenger is a former Philadelphia Family Court employee. But he declined to speculate as to whether one of Krancer’s opponents is behind the challenge. “Unlike in the Brady case, no candidate seeking election in this year’s primary has come forward to take ownership of this challenge, like Tom Knox … did,” Tabas said. “To me, it’s an objection, and if [Hughes-Harbson] has standing, we will deal with it.” Tabas is no stranger to election law matters involving Republican candidates. In 2004, Tabas defended state Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, a central Pennsylvania Republican seeking re-election who was accused of failing to list in Block 10 of his financial statement his salary as a member of the General Assembly. The state Supreme Court ultimately allowed Benninghoff to remain on the ballot because he had noted elsewhere on his statement his employment as a legislator, and his salary was public record. But since then, other candidates have had their names struck from the ballot over failures to list sources of personal income. “I point to that case as one of the initiators of this new kind of offensive use of these challenges,” Tabas said, referring to the Benninghoff matter. “These types of challenges are denying the voters the opportunity to select their elected officials, and instead they’re allowing third parties to determine who’s going to be on the ballot and who’s not.”

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