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Chester County Press

Suit seeks to block Ross in 158th District race

10/08/2014 02:37AM ● By Lev

Cuyler Walker presided over the Oct. 6 meeting of the East Marlborough Township Board of Supervisors.

By John Chambless

Staff Writer

The lines have been drawn in the battle over Cuyler Walker's sudden withdrawal from the 158th District State House race last month.

Last week, three Democrats and three Republicans submitted a petition in Commonwealth Court to object to the timing of Walker's resignation as a candidate. Headed by Adam Bonin, an expert in election law from Philadelphia, the petition states that the nomination of Rep. Chris Ross to replace Walker is a violation of part of the Election Code.

Bonin is representing Democrats David Unger, Judy Porta and Susan Rzucidlo (the Democratic candidate for the 158th seat), as well as Republicans Diane Clayton, Mary Lynne Massi and Richard Hicks, who is a former supervisor from East Marlborough Township.

The petition, filed on Sept. 30, claims that the nomination of Ross violates the code because he should have filed a petition 75 days before the election.

Walker announced his withdrawal on Sept. 22, and Ross was named as the replacement candidate on Sept. 29.

Both the timing of Walker's withdrawal and intense speculation about his reasons for leaving the race have reportedly led to an investigation, as suggested by Michael S. Gill, who is serving as Walker's attorney. Gill said that Walker would be invoking his Fifth Amendment rights in reaction to an “improperly motivated attempt to gather information for a political campaign.” The existence of an investigation has not been officially confirmed.

In a press statement, Chester County Democratic chairman Brian McGinnis wrote, “The arrogance and disrespect displayed towards the voters is offensive. ... The public deserves a public explanation of what Chris Ross knows about the Cuyler Walker criminal investigation. What are they trying to cover up?”

Walker's name has been taken off of the website for the Pepper Hamilton law firm in Phialdelphia, where he had been a partner.

In a telephone interview on Sept. 30, Ross said he was unaware of any investigation into Walker's actions. Ross, who had announced his retirement before being picked to replace Walker and pursue a tenth term representing the 158th District, said, "I thought I was going to go one way and it turns out that I am going another way. Life is full of surprises and you have to be ready to react to them. Everybody was shocked by the sudden turn of events. I've done this nine times before. I know what needs to be done. I'm going to run an aggressive campaign, getting out in front of the voters and asking for their support.”

At the Oct. 6 meeting of the East Marlborough Township Board of Supervisors, Walker presided as chairman, making no mention of his tumultuous past few weeks. As he left an executive session after the public meeting, Walker was asked if he had any comment on published reports suggesting that there is a criminal investigation of him. "No," he responded. When offered a chance to refute any rumors about him, Walker said, "No, I'm not going to elaborate."

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, e-mail jchambless@chestercounty.com.

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