Judge hears arguments in election suit

THE BALTIMORE SUN

A Baltimore Circuit Court judge heard arguments yesterday in a lawsuit alleging that City Councilwoman Paula Johnson Branch should not have been allowed to run in November's election because of missing campaign finance reports.

Glenn L. Ross, the Green Party candidate who lost to Branch, is suing Branch and the city and state election boards.

During an hourlong hearing before Judge Joseph P. McCurdy Jr., lawyers for the state and Branch argued that the case should be dismissed on grounds that Ross missed deadlines for objecting to the ballot.

McCurdy said he would issue a written ruling in a few days.

Ross, who garnered 1,188 votes to Branch's 7,780, contends that Branch was ineligible to run because of the missing reports and unpaid late fees.

At the time of the Nov. 2 election, Branch had failed to file reports due as far back as August 2003 and owed $1,250 in late fees, according to state records. She filed the reports and paid the fees by Dec. 2.

Maryland election law prohibits a person from running for or assuming public office if he or she has "failed to file a campaign finance report that is due from, or on behalf of, that individual."

State elections officials say candidates rarely can be held responsible for the reporting lapses of their campaign committees and that the only person liable is a campaign committee's chairman or its treasurer.

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