Daily Press (Sunday)

Some Virginia candidates face residency questions

Republican House caucus raises concerns about where Chesapeake’s Hayes lives

- By Sarah Rankin

RICHMOND — Virginia lawmakers are required to live in the district they represent, as well as in any district they might be seeking to represent. If they move out of their district, the state constituti­on says they are out of office.

Those requiremen­ts, combined with political maps that took effect this year, have created a headache for some candidates.

At least two sitting lawmakers seeking reelection in new districts say they are living either with or in the home of a relative rather than with their immediate family to meet the residency requiremen­ts.

But for one, Democratic Del. C.E. “Cliff ” Hayes, a private investigat­ive company’s findings that were provided to Associated Press by the House Republican caucus raise questions about that claim.

Hayes said Friday he’s following the rules. He reported to state officials that he was living in a Chesapeake home that’s in both the 77th District, which he currently represents, and the new 91st district, in which he’s running this fall.

Hayes acknowledg­ed he owns another property, where he said his wife lives and he sometimes spends time. But he said he is living with his brother-in-law in the home indicated on his paperwork, which he said had long been in his wife’s family and used to be a rental property.

The report, dated Sept. 30, says a private investigat­ions company with an active state license was hired to look into an allegation that Hayes was not living at that address.

According to the report, three vehicles registered to Hayes have been “routinely parked” at a different home, where Hayes says his wife lives. That home is also in the 91st district but not the 77th, according to a publicly available state tool that shows addresses of political districts.

A car registered to Hayes’ wife has also been seen at the home, the report said. None of those vehicles were ever seen at the address Hayes listed on state paperwork.

A range of other vehicles were, however, seen at the house listed on his paperwork, according to the report, which said surveillan­ce was conducted in the month of September “at various hours of the day and night.”

Hayes said he and his wife have five vehicles, and he sometimes drives different ones.

“I didn’t want to abandon my constituen­ts, so I moved into our rental property. We ended the lease,” he said.

In a statement provided by a House Democratic caucus spokeswoma­n, he added: “As my constituen­ts well know, I have been proud to represent this community that I have lived and worked in for my entire life.

Any allegation­s to suggest otherwise are unfounded, partisan musings from a party attempting to distract from their own wrongdoing­s,”

Hayes is running against Republican Elijah Colon. The 91st District is strongly Democratic and includes parts of Chesapeake and Portsmouth.

The once-a-decade redistrict­ing process that adjusts each state’s political maps to account for population shifts were drawn without regard to protecting incumbents, which left many legislator­s doubled or tripled up in districts. Some opted to retire, challenge each other in primaries, or move.

The state constituti­on is clear that a senator or delegate who moves from the district to which they were elected “shall thereby vacate his office.” The parttime General Assembly is not actively meeting, but members are paid on a monthly basis and receive health care and other benefits.

Tim Anderson, a Virginia Beach attorney and former House member who resigned this year to run in what was ultimately an unsuccessf­ul state Senate primary, said his benefits ended as soon as he stepped down.

Delegates are paid their $17,640 salary throughout the year, Anderson said. Members also are eligible for a “phenomenal” health care plan, state retirement benefits, an office allowance and a legislativ­e assistant, who also receives a salary and benefits, he added.

Another delegate, Nadarius Clark, resigned earlier this year to run in a new district.

Nick Freitas, the GOP nominee in a Culpeper County-area seat that’s strongly Republican, also faced questions about his residency. After his chief of staff initially declined to answer a specific question from radio station WMRA about whether Freitas had moved out of his home, Freitas told the Culpeper Star-Exponent that he was living at a home owned by his mother. His paperwork filed with the state shows that home is in his current and would-be future districts.

“None of this is ideal, but the bottom line, I had the chance to continue to represent the district I have been representi­ng for eight years,” Freitas told the newspaper.

Other concerns have flared this cycle.

Tim Griffin, the Republican nominee in a deeply conservati­ve Lynchburg-area district, has faced questions about where he lives since his party’s nomination contest. He recently refused to divulge his address to The Daily Progress, and Cardinal News reported that a group of concerned Republican­s hired a private investigat­or to look into the situation.

His campaign didn’t respond to an email Friday.

Residency questions bubbled up even before the new maps took effect.

Greg Habeeb, a former delegate and campaign chair for the House Republican­s, said it has been a perennial issue, but not one there has ever been much appetite to address with stricter standards given the issues have been in both parties and chambers.

“Most years there is some question about somebody,” he said.

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