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Yesterday was a day dominated legally by ballot challenges, with a Philadelphia mayoral candidate surviving one and a state Supreme Court candidate fighting for his spot. For Republican state Supreme Court candidate Michael Krancer, a hearing in Harrisburg yesterday centered on whether leaving certain information off of his statement of financial interest form should get him booted from the ballot in the May primary. All of the media attention might lead some to wonder if there’s a trend developing. Don’t particularly like a certain candidate running for public office in Pennsylvania? There’s a relatively easy way to do something about it. As long as you’re a voter registered with the same party as the candidate, you can challenge the candidate’s bid on a variety of possible grounds. Identifying fraudulent signatures on the candidate’s nominating papers has been a tried-and-true method to get candidates kicked off the ballot, but the real wave of the future involves calling attention in court to possible inaccuracies in the candidate’s statement of financial interest, required of all would-be public officials under state law. You’re far from guaranteed a legal victory in which the candidate is officially knocked out of the race � Pennsylvania’s courts are well known for going both ways on seemingly identical financial disclosure-related ballot challenges. But at the very least, you can force a public hearing � replete with press coverage � during which your attorney can ask the candidate potentially embarrassing questions about his financial history. When a group of Philadelphia voters �� enjoying the pecuniary support of millionaire mayoral candidate Tom Knox �� lodged such a challenge against Knox opponent U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, the longtime city Democratic Party boss was left looking like a throwback to a bygone, backward era. The Knox-backed challenge to Brady’s candidacy was not successful at the common pleas level, but the attorney fees already generated by the Knox group seem to be worth their weight in political gold. At last week’s hearing in the Brady case, testimony from various witnesses � including the congressman himself � indicated he had interests in city and carpenters’ union pension funds that weren’t listed on the statement of financial interest he filed in conjunction with his mayoral bid. On the stand, Brady appeared not to know the meaning of the term “vested.” After the hearing, Knox told reporters it seemed as if Brady has had a no-show job with the carpenters’ union. Even if the appellate courts also decline to invalidate Brady’s candidacy, Knox seems to have scored points with the voters by merely pushing the legal challenge forward. Now, Republican state Supreme Court candidate Michael Krancer, head judge of the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board, is facing his own statement of financial interest-related challenge. Krancer’s challenger is a South Philadelphian who used to be an employee of the Philadelphia Family Court � the same division of the city court system once headed by a key Republican opponent of Krancer’s, Philadelphia Complex Litigation Center Coordinating Judge Paul P. Panepinto. Panepinto has acknowledged that he knows Jaime Hughes-Harbson, who retired from Family Court after a 20-plus-year career, but stressed that he is not involved in her legal challenge of his opponent’s candidacy. Yesterday, Commonwealth Court Senior Judge James R. Kelley presided over a hearing in Harrisburg in In re Nomination Petition of Mike L. Krancer. Hughes-Harbson’s attorneys argued yesterday that Krancer should be kicked off the high court ballot for, among other alleged errors, failing to list on his statement of financial interest revenue generated by investments he made with his wife, as well as a loan for a Mercedes he co-signed with his wife. Krancer’s main defense was that the alleged omissions stemmed from his understanding that candidates are required by law to list on their statements of financial interest only income generated by services rendered, and only income and/or debts candidates have independent of their spouses. But during his time on the stand, Krancer made several admissions that, irrespective of their legal relevance, his critics are sure to harp on in the weeks to come: • He admitted that someone other than himself � who in particular, he can’t recall � filled out the section of his statement of financial interest dealing with sources of income. • He stated that his $127,000 salary from the commonwealth in 2006 was supplemented by a $150,000 gift from his father that year. • He also indicated to the court that his children’s educations are in large part supported by his father. • He explained that his family � including himself, his wife and four children � has at its disposal five cars, including an SUV, two Jeeps and two Mercedes. Hughes-Harbson’s challenge was filed by Harrisburg attorney Karen Balaban, but the Family Court retiree was mainly represented yesterday by George Bochetto of Bochetto & Lentz in Philadelphia. Bochetto told the court that his client’s main goal was to find out how Krancer was funding his lifestyle on his commonwealth salary. Bochetto called attention to Krancer’s Lower Merion Township home, which Bochetto described as an 18-room estate on rolling hills with a pool and cabana. Krancer pays more than $42,000 in real estate taxes on the property. “He can’t keep resorting to, �Everything comes out of the $127,000 salary,’” Bochetto complained to Kelley at one point when his examination of Krancer was interrupted by an objection from Krancer’s attorney, Lawrence Tabas of Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel in Philadelphia. “Maybe he married up,” was Kelley’s wry response. Whatever Mrs. Krancer’s background, the candidate himself is certainly of relatively privileged roots. The Main Line native and former Center City big-firm partner is a great-grandson of media mogul Moses Annenberg and a great-nephew of Walter Annenberg. Krancer and Superior Court Judge Maureen Lally-Green have been endorsed by the state Republican Party for this year’s two up-for-grabs justiceships, but Krancer was deemed “recommended” for the job by the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s judicial elections commission. Panepinto and Lally-Green were both found “highly recommended” by that commission. The Legal interviewed Krancer’s challenger yesterday in the presence of her attorneys. They directed Hughes-Harbson not to respond when asked if she and Panepinto had discussed her challenge of Krancer’s candidacy. Her lawyers also told her not to say anything when she was asked how she is paying for their services.

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