Here's an everyday Philadelphia-area political story with all kinds of potential ripple effects, so let's get to it.
Bryan Lentz is the progressive PA state legislator who was originally supposed to run for Curt Weldon's 7th District seat in 2006, but was asked to step aside by Rahm & Friends to allow Joe Sestak (who'd been away from the 7th for 28 years while in the Navy) to run. (Which is why I'm not too sympathetic to Joe running against Arlen Specter on his claim that we can't let the Democratic "party bosses" pick our candidates. Except when the candidate's Joe. But whatever.)
Anyway, now that Sestak isn't running for reelection, it's Lentz's turn. But even if he gets the nomination, he still has to win the general election against Patrick Meehan, the former Bush-appointed U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District. And here's where the story gets interesting:
Describing former U.S. Attorney Pat Meehan's nominating-petition drive as a bush-league criminal conspiracy, Democrat Bryan Lentz yesterday asked the feds to investigate forged signatures and other evidence of potential fraud tied to Delaware County Republicans backing Meehan's congressional campaign.
State Attorney General Tom Corbett's agents are already investigating Meehan's petitions in the race. Lentz says he wants the Justice Department's public-integrity section to take the case because Corbett could be reluctant to bring charges against fellow Republicans in the middle of his gubernatorial campaign.
Speaking over noise from Market Street traffic and a Republican heckler at a news conference outside the federal courthouse, Lentz shared more evidence of possible fraud on Meehan's petitions:
Voters' names misspelled or signed two or three times; hundreds of signatures purportedly gathered by one person on one day; a circulator with variations of his own last name.
Lentz, who has gone into attack mode seven months before the November election, said the findings create an "impression of people sitting down and just copying names off the voter roll."
"I found it shocking and upsetting that [I'm] just an average person, and someone came along and stole my identity," said Pam MacDonald, of Upper Darby, who said her forged signature was among the 3,627 names Meehan submitted to get on the ballot.
Lentz said the evidence his campaign has gathered - including through the use of private investigators - is "just the tip of what is a very expansive case of not just forgery, but false swearing, deception and other acts of fraud."
Many of the confirmed forgeries can be traced to Paul Summers, a local Republican operative close to Upper Darby GOP Chairman John McNichol.
Summers claims to have gathered 643 signatures over a two-day period leading up to the filing deadline last month.
"You might wonder how one person could do that, and the answer is, there appears to be more than one Paul Summers, and they all live at the same address," Lentz said, pointing to petitions that show Summers' last name spelled three ways on the circulator line.
Now, Meehan is the thoroughly political product of the Delaware County Republican machine. (He was Rick Santorum's campaign manager, among other things.) He was elected Delaware County D.A. after being appointed to fill out the term of his predecessor Bill Ryan, who resigned (the county GOP likes to give their candidates a thin veneer of competence, and of course an incumbent's advantage) with no prosecutorial experience.
But the party bosses wanted him, and local reporters (myself included) assumed they had bigger plans for the photogenic Meehan.