Ballot Law Commission: Republican Havenstein is eligible to run for governor

Last modified: Wednesday, July 02, 2014
Republican Walt Havenstein is eligible to run for governor, the state Ballot Law Commission ruled yesterday. The 3-2 ruling cementing Havenstein’s eligibility quashes an argument Democrats have been making for months that Havenstein didn’t meet the seven-year inhabitancy requirement because he owned a condo and lived part time in Maryland for work from 2007 to 2012.

“I’m delighted with this outcome and excited once again to get out on the campaign trail,” Havenstein said after the ruling was issued. “We’ve been saying this all along, that I was eligible, so this is a bit of vindication more than anything else.”

Democrats, however, said voters will still have questions for Havenstein.

“Very soon Havenstein is going to find out that getting on the ballot was the easy part – he’s going to have far more difficulty trying to explain away his record of failed leadership, mismanagement, and his anti-middle class agenda that would take our state in the wrong direction,” party Chairman Ray Buckley said in a statement.

Havenstein will face entrepreneur Andrew Hemingway in the Sept. 9 primary for the right to challenge Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat.

Havenstein and his wife, Judy, moved to Bedford in 1999 and then to Alton where they built a home in 2004. From 2007 to 2012, Havenstein owned a condo in Maryland while working for BAE Systems Inc. and later Science Applications International Corporation, which are both contractors for the Department of Defense. Havenstein’s attorney argued yesterday morning that Havenstein’s Maryland residence was part time and temporary, meaning Havenstein never gave up his domicile here. Havenstein and his wife have owned property, voted and filed taxes here since 1999. He did use his Maryland address on his 2007 tax return but said it was an error from using TurboTax.

New Hampshire law states someone must be an inhabitant of New Hampshire for the seven years prior to running for governor. Judy Havenstein lived in New Hampshire for most of the year while Walt Havenstein was away, he said, and he always considered it his primary home and place of domicile.

“The suggestion that somehow, by having a temporary, very spartan apartment for work purposes in another state . . . divests you of a domicile in New Hampshire is just untenable and at a certain point unfair,” Havenstein’s lawyer, David Vicinanzo, said in his closing arguments.

Greg Ahlgren, the lawyer for the New Hampshire Democratic Party, argued that Havenstein gave up his domicile in New Hampshire when he chose to take a job with SAIC in 2009 after leaving BAE Systems instead of returning to New Hampshire. The Havensteins’ decision to buy a condo in North Carolina in 2012 and spend several months there after he left SAIC further cemented that they had given up their domicile, he argued.

Democrats have also been pointing to a tax credit Havenstein received on his Maryland condo designed for “principal residents” as evidence that Maryland was his primary home. Vicinanzo, however, argued that Havenstein was entitled to the break under Maryland law.

The tax is designed for anyone who spends seven out of 12 months of the year at the residence, which Havenstein said he did. Vicinanzo said the credit automatically appeared on Havenstein’s tax bill in 2008 and that he was not required to formally apply for it until a date in 2012 that came after he sold the condo. Documents provided by Havenstein show he did sign a form declaring the condo his principal residence when he purchased it in 2007.

Despite the ruling, the state Democratic Party said Havenstein’s actions won’t sit well with voters.

“The taxpayers of Maryland will obviously want their money back and the people of New Hampshire are going to have a hard time understanding why someone who claims he wants to lead the Granite State was spending the majority of his year in another state,” Buckley said.

Hemingway’s campaign manager, Alicia Preston, said he is eager to show voters the “clear difference” between himself and Havenstein. Hemingway has started small businesses here and worked in local political circles, and Havenstein has made several comments that demonstrate his limited understanding of New Hampshire law, Preston said.

“These and many other examples show that it’s not the years of experience that matter, it’s the kind of experience. It’s the kind of experience Andrew Hemingway has and we look forward to demonstrating that,” she said in a statement.

Of the Ballot Law Commission’s five members, both the speaker of the House and the Senate president appoint two members, one from each political party. The fifth member is appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Executive Council, and is supposed to have expertise in election law.

Republicans Michael Eaton and Brad Cook as well as Democrat Martha Van Oot voted in Havenstein’s favor. Cook considered running for governor against Hassan but determined last November that he would not. Democrats Donald Manning and Roger Wellington voted against Havenstein. Hassan appointed Wellington to the commission in April.

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