Jefferson County auditor weighs residency challenge by commissioner candidate

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County Auditor Donna Eldridge says she probably will decide this week as to whether a residency challenge by one county commissioner candidate against another is valid and whether the challenged candidate will be removed from the Aug. 6 primary ballot.

The complaint was filed by Dan Youra against Tim Thomas, both Republican candidates for the District 2 commissioners’ seat now held by Democrat David Sullivan.

Eldridge met Monday with fellow panelists Chief Civil Deputy Prosecutor David Alvarez and Elections Coordinator Karen Cartmel, and the two candidates.

“I submit that Mr. Thomas is not a resident of District 2 and is not qualified to be on the ballot,” Youra said.

“At the time of his filing Mr. Thomas maintained his residency at 2281 Hastings Ave. W, which is located in District 1.”

Thomas said earlier that he intended to change his legal residence from District 1 to District 2 in order to challenge Sullivan, and had planned to move to a property he owned at 18 Hope Lane to establish residency.

On May 18, the last filing day, he determined the address was in District 1, so he rented a home at 140 Swaney St. in Irondale and moved in that weekend.

He chose to not run in his home district because he did not want to challenge Geoff Masci, who is challenging incumbent Phil Johnson, said campaign spokesman John Geiser.

According to Youra’s statement, he had not planned to run for the seat but did so when no other candidate emerged to challenge Sullivan and Thomas’ residency was in doubt.

According to a statement by Jefferson County Republican Chairman Ron Gregory, who is supporting Youra, Gregory advised Geiser on May 17 not to proceed with Thomas’ candidate filing because of the residency question.

Youra, who filed his candidacy papers minutes before the 4:30 p.m. deadline, was aware of questions surrounding Thomas’ residency prior to his own filing, according to his statement.

Youra filed his residency challenge on May 21.

“The voters need to know exactly where the people who want to represent them are living,” he said at the time.

On Monday, Youra described his action as a preemptive strike.

“If a viable candidate would have come forth to challenge the incumbent, I would have gladly stayed home and supported another challenger,” he said.

“If I had not challenged Mr. Thomas on his qualifications, this primary could result in a challenge by the opposition party during the primary.

“If found with merit, this could have Mr. Thomas removed from the race . . . giving the incumbent a free ride to a third term.”

Youra’s challenge said Thompson’s candidacy is illegal because election law states that representatives be elected as “one of their own” by the public, and living outside the district contradicts this.

Youra also criticized Thomas for not knowing the name of his new street, Swaney Street, initially referring to it as “Swaney Ave.”

“A person who judges himself competent enough to run a county government should be competent enough to know where he lives.”

Youra presented photographic evidence, a picture of the Swaney Street property on May 18 that showed it in poor repair.

Thomas did not present any evidence in his defense aside from newer pictures of the property, showing that it has been improved.

When questioned by Alvarez, Thomas said he had spent almost every night at Swaney Street since declaring his candidacy, although his family does not always join him there.

His son, who just graduated from high school, will continue to live at the Hastings Avenue address, while his wife stays at both places, Thomas said.

Thomas stated that he will continue to use Hastings Avenue as his business and will file business taxes from that location in 2013 but will file his personal income taxes from the Swaney Street address.

Eldridge said that after she reaches a decision, either party can file an appeal to Superior Court if they are dissatisfied.

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Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 11. 2012 5:42PM
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