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Candidate criticizes signs

Jurist hopeful Jim Haggerty says “Haggerty No” signs violate election law.

Candidate for Luzerne County judge Jim Haggerty is up in arms about signs telling voters not to elect him.

The signs reading “Haggerty No” began popping up around the Wyoming Valley last week, Haggerty said, and several are prominently displayed on the shoulders of the Cross Valley Expressway.

Haggerty said he thinks the signs are in violation of state election law because they do not display the name of the person or group that paid for them.

“It’s a violation of election law, and it’s not fair to voters who see the signs and don’t know where they came from,” he said, adding he has received numerous calls about the signs.

“It doesn’t bother me personally, but it bothers my supporters tremendously,” he said. “There’s no secret campaigning. … The voters are entitled to know who’s financing campaign ads.”

The state election code requires disclosure of any expenses totaling more than $100 in a year for items “expressly advocating the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate or question appearing on the ballot, other than by contribution to a political committee or candidate.”

Luzerne County Director of Elections Leonard Piazza Jr. said professionally printed campaign signs displayed on public property would definitely require such disclosure, but homemade signs would likely fail to meet the $100 threshold.

The Haggerty No signs on the Cross Valley Expressway appear to be homemade painted plywood placards.

Piazza said he hasn’t seen the signs and that Haggerty has not filed a complaint about them with his office. He said it is within his office’s power to order the signs be taken down, but no action will be taken without a formal complaint.

“If he files one I could talk a look at it and find out who’s responsible for it and take it from there,” Piazza said, “but it’s hard for my office to police campaign signs when they pop up like spring flowers here.”

The signs appear to be the first black mark on a judicial campaign otherwise untainted by negative advertising.

“As a candidate, it’s pretty shocking to see, but that being said I’m glad to see that to date it’s been amicable,” said county judge candidate Jennifer Rogers, who also ran for judge in 2009.

“I think that there was very little negativity in the last election and there is virtually no negativity among the candidates in this election,” added candidate Mike Blazick, who is also making his second run at the county bench. “I think we all respect each other and hope that the public chooses the best candidate for the job.”

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