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For Pannell, It's Getting Personal

Now, it's personal, said Philip Pannell, wannabe candidate for shadow senator.

"It's very personal," he said.

The longtime Democrat, who wants to unseat shadow Sen. Paul Strauss, will go before the Board of Elections and Ethics at a public hearing tomorrow to fend off challenges to his nominating petitions. He needs 2,000 signatures of registered Democrats to become an official candidate on the ballot for the Sept. 9 Democratic primary.

Both shadow Rep. Michael D. Brown and former shadow Sen. Florence Pendleton challenged his 3,649 signatures. Hmmm....not Strauss? (Keep reading.)

At a pre-hearing today, Rudolph McGann, staff attorney for the elections board, concluded that Pannell had 2,229 signatures, more than enough to stay on the ballot.

Such a discovery would generally push the challengers to retreat.

But Richard Bianco, an attorney for Brown and Pendleton, said they would press on. Bianco happens to be the associate in Strauss's Strauss & Associates law firm.

How did Pendleton happen to enlist Bianco's services? "It just came about," she said.

At issue, Bianco told McGann, is possible forgery ala former Mayor Anthony A. Williams's petition debacle in 2002. Williams ended up being a write-in candidate.

Pannell and his attorney, Kahlill Palmer, tried to no avail to get a delay for tomorrow's hearing, saying they did not get enough information from Bianco and had no time to pull together a defense.

It was a little chaotic for such a small, private setting at the government building at Judiciary Square. Pannell's supporters -- longtime, grassroots Democrats and even former Council Chairman Arrington Dixon -- were vocal.

But McGann reminded them of deadlines and that the forgery challenge could be legitimate. "What I saw, just in a cursory look, were four family members all in the same hand," he said. "They're gonna call fraudulence. I would, too, if I was going to challenge."

McGann suggested that Pannell pack tomorrow's hearing with circulators, election lingo for the folks who gather the signatures.

Pannell said in an interview that he will get ready. "I'm really upset. It's no longer just about not having enough signatures....It's impugning the reputations of my circulators. It's uncalled for," he said.

Is it Karma?

Pannell, after all, challenged Pendleton's nominating petitions in 2006. He wanted a one-on-one race with Brown, who ended up winning.

Pendleton had been shadow senator since 1990.

The board concluded that Pendleton did not have enough signatures. Pannell argued that that was different. He only challenged her number of valid signatures, not her circulators.

And as far as a Williams replay, he said that was different, too. "They were in the same handwriting and then wrote names like Mickey Mouse," he said.

Pendleton denied payback. "No. You just need to see," she said of his signatures. "Are the signatures valid?"

If Pannell was upset, his treasurer Yvonne Moore was heartbroken.

She was the one who gathered the four family signatures that all look alike.

In an interview, she said she did not watch a woman when she took the petitions inside for relatives to sign one Sunday when she was collecting signatures.

"Rather than hurt Phil, I would rather cut off my left hand," she said, "and I'm left-handed."

And on to Ward 8, where Sandra "S.S." Seegars challenged four potential candidates Ahmad Braxton-Jones, Darrell Gaston, Chanda McMahan and Yavocka Young for failing to have enough signatures.

Young has withdrawn from the race after McGann explained that she did not have the necessary 250. Meanwhile, McMahan did not appear today. That leaves Braxton-Jones on the ballot and Gaston before the board tomorrow because Seegars said she is not willing to withdraw her challenge.

By Nikita R Stewart  |  July 22, 2008; 7:07 PM ET
Categories:  2008 District Election  
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I am of the opinion that DC should do away with or reduce the number of petitions required to seek elected office. This process is archaic and benign and only serves the purposes of a deceitful and slanderous challenge process. I do recognize that DC residents have been left with a bad taste in our mouths after the Tony Williams incident. But, I see other states have a number of different systems to ensure all candidate have the capability of being on the ballot. Although the challenge process is not over, my admiration goes out to Mr. Pannell and the other grass roots activists for Keepin' the Faith Baby

Posted by: Jmanthom | July 23, 2008 10:12 AM | Report abuse

The signature system is out of date and should be abolished in favor of a running fee of $500.00.

Posted by: Jonathan Rees | July 23, 2008 12:24 PM | Report abuse

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