In the Republican primary race for Texas House District 93 in Tarrant County, questions are being raised over one candidate’s eligibility.
Cary Moon and Nate Schatzline, two candidates for the seat, released a joint statement regarding their opponent’s alleged failure to establish a permanent residency in the district.
According to their statement, the apartment Laura Hill (former Southlake mayor) maintains in HD 93 is not her residence. A Schatzline canvasser left a mailer on the apartment door and returned for 10 successive days to find the mailer was never removed. Moon and Schatzline allege that Hill is merely maintaining an address and not a residency in the district.
“Laura Hill clearly doesn’t live in the apartment she falsely claimed as her residence. Her ballot application misrepresents her residency. What voters want is someone who will fight for the truth and tell the truth. Her ballot application is not truthful. She should be removed,” said Schatzline.
Moon echoed Schatzline, stating, “There is a fair process for candidates to document and to establish residency within a district. Texas law is in place to ensure representation for people, by people, who live in the same district. A stark error has been made. The Tarrant County GOP should have a cure for the default, otherwise the application is void.”
Moon and Schatzline have filed a formal complaint with the Republican Party of Tarrant County.
Texas legislators are required by law to maintain a residence in the district they run in for a year prior to the election. However, candidates often skirt this law by buying a house or renting an apartment a year out from the election.
Hill appears to have used this legal loophole, but it will be difficult to prove that the apartment is not her legal residence.
State Sen. Brian Birdwell (R–Granbury) ran into a similar challenge in 2010 following his special election. His Democrat opponent claimed that since Birdwell had voted in Virginia in 2006, he would not be eligible to run until 2011, when he would meet the five-year residency requirement for state senators.
The 5th Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Birdwell and his argument that despite his vote in Virginia and his work in the Pentagon, he was a lifelong Texan who was only away for military duties and always intended to return to Texas.
“Residency is a finicky concept, especially if it must be litigated,” said Tony McDonald, an Austin election law attorney. “In Texas, residency is not simply where you sleep at night, where you vote, or where you file taxes. It can involve a personal sense of home and even where someone plans to retire. It’s more of a state of mind. A court looks at all those factors, and there is typically a deference to leaving the issue up to the voters.”