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Republican Havenstein enters N.H. governor’s race despite eligibility questions

Last modified: 4/3/2014 4:28:16 PM
Republican businessman Walter Havenstein announced his intention to run for governor yesterday, giving Republicans new hope in their mission to take back the governor’s mansion this fall.

But Democrats quickly attempted to halt any momentum by questioning whether Havenstein is legally eligible to run because he received a tax break designed for state residents on a condo he owned in Maryland several years ago.

Havenstein, 64, is the former chief executive officer of BAE Systems Inc., the state’s largest manufacturing employer. He’s been a major donor in Republican circles for years, but this is his first run for elected office. He filed paperwork to form a campaign committee yesterday and plans to make a formal announcement in two weeks.

“Our state is at a critical juncture, and I believe my experience, ideas, and leadership are what is needed to address the many challenges facing New Hampshire,” he said in a statement. He was not available for further comment.

Although Democrats were quick to raise questions about Havenstein’s eligibility to run, his adviser, Jamie Burnett, said yesterday that Havenstein is eligible to run based on New Hampshire law.

At this time, the New Hampshire Democratic Party has no plans to legally challenge Havenstein’s eligibility, Communications Director Julie McClain said. But, she said, Havenstein has important questions to answer about his eligibility and tax payments.

Is he eligible?

State law says a gubernatorial candidate must be domiciled in New Hampshire for the seven years leading up to his or her candidacy. Domicile is defined as the primary place where someone has established a physical presence and intends to hold a continuous presence there for domestic, social and civil purposes. People can leave the state temporarily yet still consider themselves domiciled here.

Havenstein and his wife, Judy, moved to New Hampshire in 1999 and own a home in Alton. He has been registered to vote here since at least 2004, according to the Secretary of State’s office. Havenstein did own a condo in Bethesda, Md., for several years beginning in 2008, when he was transferred there for his job with BAE Systems, Burnett said.

His work remained in Maryland when he left BAE Systems and became chief executive officer of Science Applications International Corp. While employed full time in Maryland, Havenstein lived there during the week and traveled home to Alton on the weekends, Burnett said. Havenstein retired from SAIC in 2011 and sold his Maryland property.

Under Maryland law, anyone who is in the state for more than 183 days a year is considered a statutory resident for income tax purposes. Maryland law acknowledges that someone may be a resident in Maryland for tax purposes yet domiciled somewhere else.

Democrats are saying that if Havenstein was domiciled in New Hampshire, making him eligible to run for governor, he falsely received a tax credit on his Maryland property. Maryland homeowners are eligible for a “homestead exemption” on their property taxes if they fill out a form declaring a piece of property as their principal residence.

Maryland law defines “principal” residence as the “one dwelling where the homeowner regularly resides and is the location designated by the owner for the legal purposes of voting, obtaining a driver’s license, and filing income tax returns.”

It is unclear from the application whether someone must meet each piece of this criteria to be eligible. A representative from Maryland’s Department of Assessments and Taxation did not return a message asking for comment clarifying the requirements for receiving the exemption.

Challenges to a candidate’s eligibility can be filed through the New Hampshire Ballot Law Commission once the candidate signs an affidavit placing his or her name on the ballot in June.

In a 2000 case, the commission found a Democratic candidate for state senator was eligible to run even though he had lived in and been registered to vote in California within the seven years leading up to his candidacy. The candidate, Leonard Foy, had lived in California for work and employment purposes, and the ballot commission ruled he was eligible to run because he had always intended to return to New Hampshire. After that ruling, however, the Legislature enacted a law saying registering to vote in another state would remove someone’s domicile in New Hampshire.

Havenstein never registered to vote in Maryland during the time he lived there for work.

Strong business ties

Despite these questions from Democrats, Republicans expressed excitement yesterday over Havenstein’s decision to enter the race. Andrew Hemingway, 31, is the other Republican candidate in the primary.

Havenstein is a candidate with deep pockets and a strong business background, both of which will make him a serious contender in the primary and the general election, Republican strategist Jim Merrill said. Both Havenstein and Scott Brown, who is likely to run for U.S. Senate, will have to fight through primaries, but the potential of a GOP ticket topped by Havenstein and Brown this fall will draw national eyes and money to New Hampshire from groups such as the Republican Governors Association and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Merrill said.

“Their interest in New Hampshire has certainly spiked in the last 48 hours,” he said.

The New Hampshire Republican Party does not take a position in primaries, but said Gov. Maggie Hassan’s support for the Affordable Care Act and an increase in the gas tax will make her vulnerable this fall.

Burnett, Havenstein’s adviser, said Havenstein’s executive experience in the business world makes him a strong candidate to lead the state.

“This race is about leadership and the ability to create a competitive environment for job growth. New Hampshire is at an economic crossroads, and this campaign will be about who is best suited to ensure that this state remains a great place in which to live, work and raise a family,” he said.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)


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