One of the first congressional candidates to emerge from the Occupy Wall Street movement withdrew his position from the Democratic primary ballot Friday and pledged he would continue his run as a write-in campaign.
Facing a legal challenge to his nominating petitions, Nate Kleinman said he would rather spend the next two months building support at the polls than battling over signatures.
"There's about seven weeks left until this election," he said. "It makes absolutely no sense for me to be going back and forth with them over signatures in court."
Kleinman, 29, of Jenkintown, announced earlier this year he would challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Montgomery) in the April 24 Democratic primary.
His withdrawal from the ballot Friday came after a Commonwealth Court hearing in Philadelphia in which Schwartz's supporters challenged several of the 1,500 signatures Kleinman secured to appear on district voting machines.
State law requires candidates only collect 1,000 signatures to secure a ballot position.
Within days of petition filing last month, a group of Schwartz supporters challenged the validity of more than 500 of Kleinman's signatures. They also questioned the eligibility of one of his deputy campaign managers to solicit signatures, since he was not a registered voter in the district when the process began.
Representing himself in court Friday, Kleinman never argued against those claims. Instead, he sought to have the challenge thrown out claiming he had never been personally served with legal documents.
Attorneys representing the Schwartz backers maintained that the documents had been delivered to Kleinman's campaign address and that he was there at the time. They later sent electronic copies of the filings to him over a series of e-mails to which he responded.
Ultimately, Judge Rochelle S. Friedman found Kleinman's arguments unconvincing.
"You did everything possible to avoid being served," she said.
After Friday's hearing, several of Kleinman's supporters gathered in a hallway outside the courtroom to heckle the legal team representing Schwartz's backers. Hurling accusations that the congresswoman was afraid to face a challenge at the polls, they questioned a request that Kleinman pay legal fees associated with the court challenge.
Schwartz has a campaign war chest of $2.3 million, according to her latest campaign filings. Kleinman said Friday his campaign has about $5,000 to $10,000 cash on hand.
"I'll strip for you to raise the money," one of his supporters said..
Neil Deegan, Schwartz's political director, declined to comment as he rushed from the courtroom Friday.
Although Kleinman has often been identified as "the Occupy candidate," the Occupy Philadelphia movement declined to back him or any other political candidates at an endorsement last month. He spent months last year camped on Dilworth Plaza with dozens of other protesters.
The district he and Schwartz are campaigning to represent includes Jenkintown, Abington and portions of Northeast Philadelphia.