The Pennsylvania Democratic Party is suing to remove former Greene County Representative Bill DeWeese from November’s general election ballot, arguing the convicted felon should be replaced with another Democrat because the candidate would be ineligible to serve if elected.
However, DeWeese’s lawyer said it would be premature to remove the former House Speaker from the election, because he’s pursuing appeals to his five felony convictions for using state workers and resources in a political campaign. State law prohibits convicted felons from holding public office.
The arguments were made before a Commonwealth Court judge on Wednesday.
DeWeese won the Democratic primary unopposed on April 24, the same day he was sentenced to state prison for at least two-and-a-half years.
Pennsylvania Department of State spokesman Ron Ruman said the felony convictions have no bearing on DeWeese’s eligibility to appear on the ballot. Primary election winners must appear on the general election ballot unless they die or withdraw from the race.
DeWeese has not withdrawn.
“State law says that if you win the primary, you are on the ballot unless you withdraw,” said Ruman. “The deadline for withdrawal is August 13, but there is no provision in the law for the Department of State removing anyone from the ballot who wins the primary.”
“Now, the question would come up, ‘If he wins the election, is he able to serve, being convicted?’” said Ruman, “but, in terms of being on the ballot, there is nothing we can do under state law to remove him.”