PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Six years ago, Ed Gainey, an aide to Mayor Ravenstahl, came within 94 votes of defeating long-time incumbent State Rep. Joe Preston.

Now he’s back for another try, and Gainey has sharpened the rhetoric against his adversary, saying Preston condoned the use of forged signatures to get on the ballot.

Gainey, a Democrat, says that Preston turned in election petitions with forged signatures of local residents.

“Joe Preston submitted documents to the state with names of at least 90 individuals that had been forged. Forty of those names on the document Joe Preston claimed he personally had witnessed,” said Gainey.

Gainey recently lost a court challenge to Preston’s nominating petitions, with the judge finding enough valid signatures to qualify Preston for the ballot.

But Gainey still says it’s important.

“It continues to demonstrate that Mr. Preston is out of touch with the voters,” he said.

Carol Owens was one of the people whose name was forged.

“I was a little angry because my name was forged on there. I have not actually met Mr. Preston in my neighborhood,” Owens said.

Janet Johnson found her signature on a petition that Preston signed as circulator.

“I was shocked,” Johnson said. “Crazy that someone who is supposed to be a political leader in the community would resort to such means.”

But an attorney for Preston dismissed the objections.

Karen Balaban, Preston’s elections attorney, released a statement: “None of the pages of signatures considered by the court contained any forgeries. The bottom line is that the court dismissed the challenges, and Joe Preston is on the ballot.”

The court did not examine the alleged forged signatures because there were enough legitimate ones to keep Preston’s name on the ballot.

But Gainey insists that this demonstrates the character of the man he hopes to replace.

Voters in the 24th district – that includes Highland Park, Homewood, East Liberty, Aspinwall and Wilkinsburg – will make their choice in just four weeks.

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