Judicial candidate's filing challenged

Objections center on her residency

March 20, 2019 Cranberry Local News

Objections filed by four Butler County residents on Tuesday challenge the candidacy of Jennifer Vanasdale on the basis of her residency.

Vanasdale, a candidate for judge in the Butler County Court of Common Pleas, owns two residences in Butler County, one in Seven Fields and another about two miles away in Cranberry Township. Her candidacy papers list her Cranberry Township address as her residence. The petitions suggest that the Seven Fields address is where she actually lives, and that her candidacy petition should therefore be invalid.

The written objections to her candidacy quote a 2008 court case, saying “one's residence for qualifying for office must be a habitation where one has put down roots, not a place where one has hoisted a flag of convenience.”

Vanasdale herself doesn't deny the distinction, but she questions both the source of the objections and their relevance. She said the Cranberry Township home, which she bought in December of 2018, is being renovated and will be her permanent residence in mid-April.

Her driver's license and voter registration are both already shifted to the Cranberry Township address, she said.

“This, to me, appears to be a nonissue raised for the purpose of harassment,” Vanasdale said in a phone interview Tuesday.

Two separate petitions were filed, though they include identical language. One, filed by registered Republicans Patricia Stirling of Lancaster Township and Dianne Gregor of Jackson Township, targets her Republican nomination papers, while the other filed by Democrats Christopher Armstrong of Forward Township and Dean Zinkhann of Evans City, question her Democrat papers.

Both petitions state that Vanasdale “has never resided at 202 Woodlawn Road since purchasing (the home) in December of 2018. In fact, 202 Woodlawn Road is currently in uninhabitable condition.”

Clifford Levine, the Pittsburgh attorney who filed both objections on behalf of the four Butler County residents, did not return a call for comment Tuesday.

Vanasdale said she suspected a former campaign competitor is behind the effort.

“I believe this is orchestrated, likely, by Tom Breth,” she said.

Breth, whom Vanasdale has been fiercely critical of, dropped out of the race about a month ago. He denied any involvement and said he had no knowledge of any objections prior to being asked by media.

“I don't know who is behind this,” Breth said. “It isn't me. I could care less.”

He called on Vanasdale to release evidence that he's involved.

“I don't know why she continues to try and attack me,” Breth said.

Vanasdale pointed to connections between the four objectors and Breth. The most obvious connection being Stirling, the former co-chair of the committee to elect Tom Breth.

Another of the objectors she alleged is linked to Breth, citing Facebook activity.

Vanasdale said she believes those behind the objection have been investigating her properties in person and bothering her neighbors.

Vanasdale's campaign manager Mike Barley wrote in a statement released Tuesday afternoon that: “The individuals challenging these petitions even sunk as low as to send a private detective to take pictures of Jennifer's home and even approached an elderly neighbor under false pretenses, and upon inquiry gave a false name and phone number.”

That allegation refers to a March incident for which a police report is on file. Police responded to a suspicious person report at Vanasdale's Seven Fields home at about 9:30 p.m. March 13, according to the Evans City/Seven Fields Regional Police Department. Vanasdale herself made the call and reported an unknown person looking in her windows.

The person, she told police, was asking questions about her home to a neighbor. That neighbor asked for a name and phone number, and was given invalid information.

Vanasdale said she also saw someone taking photos from a vehicle at her Cranberry Township home once, and the person “sped off,” she said.

Besides Vanasdale, William “Wink” Robinson, Matthew Fischer and Nicole Thurner submitted papers to run for judge, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State website. Papers were not received from assistant district attorney Terri Schultz, despite her announcing her candidacy in late February.