PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A Philadelphia judge has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday in a challenge to State Rep. Amen Brown’s nominating petition for the mayor’s race.
The candidate has kept a pretty low profile — skipping public community forums where most of the other candidates have appeared. But he showed up Friday morning to defend his nominating petition to a Court of Common Pleas judge.
Of the 80 candidates who filed nominating petitions to be on the Democratic primary ballot in May, 32 faced challenges Friday morning. The judge is handling dozens of challenges, most for City Council candidates.
One-third of the challenges were against councilmember-at-large candidates. More than half were against candidates for district council seats, including every single candidate in the seven-person race to succeed Council President Darrell Clarke in the fifth district.
Eleven at-large City Council candidates and 17 district City Council candidates are also defending against challenges, along with two register of wills candidates and one sheriff candidate.
Brown is the only mayoral candidate who drew a challenge by the Thursday filing deadline.
“This is where it gets silly,” said attorney Kevin Greenberg, who filed the challenge, alleging as as many as 2,700 signatures out of Brown’s 3,300 are fraudulent. He points to pages where the handwriting seems identical, line after line, though the names are different.
“All these people, with allegedly different addresses, writing the same way. … He just doesn’t seem to take this seriously, and that’s compounded by obvious fraud in the petitions he turned in.”
If those signatures were to be disqualified, Brown would be left with about 500 signatures, far fewer than the 1,000 required.
Greenberg’s challenge also alleges omissions in Brown’s financial statements, including the interest rate he’s paying on various debts, saying, “Representative Brown’s willful concealment can only be described as bad faith.”
According to the filing, financial information is needed to determine if he is getting a “sweetheart deal” from someone who might attempt to influence him in office. “Because of his failure to truthfully and completely disclose his relevant financial interests, Representative Brown should be disqualified from the ballot.”
Greenberg said financial omissions were a problem when he ran for state house last year.
“He can’t figure out how to disclose basic information about himself. He was chided by Commonwealth Court last year, and I would dare say the lack of consequences has led to his continued law-breaking — almost Trumpian in behavior by Mr. Brown,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg is representing a single voter, but Brown says another mayoral candidate — grocer Jeff Brown, no relation — is behind the challenge. He calls the allegations nonsense, and his campaign issued a statement Thursday calling the challenge a “smear tactic.”
“These actions only prove what many already know … Rep. Brown’s candidacy is gaining incredible support across the city. Rep. Brown will successfully defend this challenge just as he will defend against the challenges Philadelphians face as our next mayor.”
The judge scheduled a hearing on Brown’s case for next Wednesday.
“You have Janky Jeff Brown, up to no good, picking on a young Black man who’s trying to do some good for the city,” Brown said Friday morning.
“He’s afraid of strong Black men, and he’s threatened by our campaign because he knows it’s real. It’s authentic support that we have.”
Jeff Brown’s campaign declined comment.