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Residency is hard

Fascinating story about residency and elections in Galveston.

Two of the three candidates for Galveston mayor are challenging the residency of front-runner Jim Yarbrough, the former county judge who was expected to coast to victory in the May municipal election.

An attorney for three-term Councilwoman Elizabeth Beeton and businessman Don Mafrige late Wednesday sent a five-page letter asking the Galveston city secretary to declare Yarbrough ineligible to be a candidate.

Mafrige, who financed the challenge, said it should not be viewed as a tactic to oust a popular candidate. “We didn’t take him out, he took himself out by not really being eligible to run,” Mafrige said.

Beeton said only another candidate can challenge a candidate’s residency.

Yarbrough disputed the challenge to his candidacy and said he would hire an attorney. “I’m glad they did it,” Yarbrough said. “We need to resolve the issue now before the election.”

[…]

The letter sent by attorney Mark Wawro on behalf of Beeton and Mafrige alleges that Yarbrough violated a section of the city charter that says a candidate must not claim a homestead exemption on property other than the candidate’s Galveston residence for at least a year before the May 10 election. Attached to the letter is a request by Yarbrough for a homestead exemption in Fayette County in March 2012 and a request to withdraw the exemption dated Sept. 8, 2013.

Yarbrough said that although he made his request in September for removal of the exemption, it was removed retroactively for the entire year and therefore enabled him to meet the charter provision requirements.

Jerad Nachvar has an in depth legal analysis of this that you should read. From my layman’s perspective, you’d think Galveston’s residential exemption standard would be fairly straightforward, but even that is subject to interpretation. I agree with Yarbrough that we ought to try to resolve this before the election – we know all too well what a mess it is to try and sort these issues out after the election – but it sure would be nice if there were a way to do that without having to go to court. I hope we get some clarity out of this.

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