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Does age and the law matter?

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Really does ones age, the law, and the Pennsylvania Constitution matter?  it looks like those questions are about to be answered this year in the Pennsylvania election for Lt. Governor.

Montgomery County Commissioner, Joe Gale, has announced his candidacy for Lt. Governor in this Spring Primary as a Republican.  The problem is that the Pennsylvania Constitution says that a Lt. Governor must have attained age 30 to assume the position.  Joe Gale is 28 years old.

One of our readers has been following this and writes to us the following:

 

Dear LV Commentator,

I recently attended a rally where Joe Gale spoke.  He is currently a Commissioner in Montgomery County.  He said he was running for Lieutenant Governor this year.  Although he seems like a fine young man, there is a problem with his candidacy.  He does not meet the age requirement for Lieutenant Governor in the PA Constitution.  The language is clear:

“No person shall be eligible to the office of Governor, Lieutenant Governor or Attorney General except a citizen of the United States, who shall have attained the age of 30 years,..”

It does not say someone who is going to become 30 at some point later in the term.  It says the person must already have attained the age of 30 to be eligible for the office.

Mr. Gale is 28.  He will therefore not reach the age of 30 before the day on which he is required to assume the office of Lieutenant Governor.

It appears that he is aware of his problem.  In news articles, he responded to the question of his age by citing 2 examples of someone who was elected before reaching the required age and waited to be inaugurated.  Both were federal elections.  Neither example was in Pennsylvania.

Nowhere in the Pennsylvania Constitution is there a provision for delaying an inauguration to allow someone to meet the age requirement ” after the fact”.

Mr. Gale seems determined to continue his race.

There are several possible outcomes–and they are all negative.

First, Mr. Gale spends time and resources to achieve ballot access, only to be declared ineligible immediately by the Department of State since he does not meet the age requirement.  So valuable time and resources were wasted.

Second, the Department of State does not determine eligibility, but just accepts the information, and someone challenges his nomination based on his age ineligibility.  The case is determined by a Pennsylvania Court.  There is no possibility of a federal appeal since his race has no federal connection.  While there is no possible way to predict a Court’s decision, Mr. Gale has not pointed to any Pennsylvania law or precedent to defend his position.  If he loses here, the amount of wasted time and money only grows.  If he wins, his age will become the number one issue of the primary, drowning out necessary debate on education, taxes, and jobs.

Third, Mr. Gale makes it through the primary and joins the GOP ticket in the fall.  The Democrats now have the opportunity to make Mr. Gale’s age the number one issue in the general election, talking about how the Republicans don’t believe that the laws that everyone else must obey should apply to them.  It plays directly into the ugly stereotype of Republicans that the Democrats love to use.

Fourth, Mr. Gale and his Gubernatorial running mate win the general election.  The Democrats now have the ability to file suit to invalidate the election because Mr. Gale is not eligible to be inaugurated.  They can seek to have the election set aside.  Remember that the PA Supreme Court is now majority Democrat. The situation gives the justices the ability to set aside a Republican victory, and call for a second election, financed of course by Pennsylvania taxpayers.  And since the race has no federal connections, the decision of that Supreme Court IS the final decision.

From listening to Mr. Gale, I can see that he is passionate about running.  And when he is actually old enough, I would be interested in hearing his ideas.  But it is just plain wrong to ask me  to support someone who does not meet the Constitutional requirements for the office they are seeking.  Especially when I would be electing that person to “support, obey and defend” that Constitution.

Name withheld by request!

LVC Note:  We question whether or not a law case could be made to the Federal Courts through the Due Process Clause of the 5th Amendment made applicable on the State through the 14th Amendment.  Such a move may well be a legal stretch.  In any event, we recommend that Mr. Gale not seek this office now but wait until he is Constitutionally eligible.  To do otherwise may well damage his political reputation and career.

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