HARRISBURG, Pa. — A Pennsylvania judge refused yesterday to remove Libertarian Party presidential candidate Bob Barr from the state’s ballot.
The ruling will force Republican nominee John McCain and Democratic nominee Barack Obama to take Barr seriously in a key battleground state, said a Barr campaign spokesman.
The major-party candidates “will have to compete for the votes of Pennsylvania citizens instead of taking them for granted,” said Russell Verney, Barr’s campaign manager, in a statement.
The challenge to Barr — a former Republican congressman from Georgia who some GOP strategists fear might siphon votes from McCain — was filed by Harrisburg lawyer Victor Stabile, who is also chairman of the Cumberland County Republican Party.
Commonwealth Court Judge Johnny Butler rejected arguments that the party tricked voters by gathering signatures under another candidate’s name and substituting Barr’s name in August — three months after he was nominated at its national convention.
The Libertarians’ intent “was to comply with the (state) election code, not to mislead Pennsylvania’s voters,” Butler wrote.
Butler said the original candidate, Rochelle Etzel, always understood that she would be only a placeholder and that the national party’s nominee would eventually be substituted.
“Etzel took no steps to form a committee, to actively seek the office of president or to place her name on the ballot in other states,” he said.
Lawyers for both sides did not return telephone messages seeking comment.