Residency Issues Moves Into District 50 State House Race

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TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — Space Coast Rep. Tom Goodson is being accused by his Republican primary challenger of not living in the district he represents, a claim his campaign has labeled as “desperate political attacks.”

Tom Goodson

Tom Goodson

And as lawmakers have moved to tighten residency requirements for elected officials, the state GOP is standing behind Goodson on his housing arrangement.

“Rep. Goodson resides and is a registered voter in House District 50 and has done a great job representing his constituents,” state Republican Party spokeswoman Susan Hepworth said in an email.

George Collins, an Orlando Republican, is raising the questions about the two-term incumbent. 

Collins noted that Goodson uses a $65,410 golf-course community condominium in Titusville for his District 50 address, rather than a $416,410, four-bedroom waterfront property in Rockledge that he owns with his wife. Goodson claims a homestead exemption on the Rockledge property.

It sounds a little cozy to be staying at your daughter’s apartment,” said Collins, a local tea party member who teaches public speaking courses at Valencia College. 

george-collins-180

Collins

Collins is Goodson’s only opponent in the winner-take-all primary.

District 50 covers parts of northern Brevard and eastern Orange counties. Before reapportionment in 2012, Goodson’s district included much of Brevard County and parts of Indian River County.

The 1,210-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bath Titusville condo is jointly owned by Goodson’s daughter and wife, according to county property appraiser records. Goodson is registered to vote at the Titusville address.

As part of the reapportionment process, the 3,699-square-foot Rockledge property was included in District 51, which is represented by Merritt Island Republican Steve Crisafulli, who is slated to become House speaker in November if he wins re-election.

Collins said his campaign has staked out the Titusville complex, going so far as to inquire with neighbors about how often they see Goodson.

Lawmakers adopted residency rules as the 2014 legislative session opened. Under the joint resolution, lawmakers’ residencies could be determined by a list of 13 factors, including where they are registered to vote, where they claim homestead exemptions and which addresses are listed on driver’s licenses. The rules allow members to have multiple residences, but only one deemed their legal residence.

“I think he didn’t think I’d campaign in Titusville,” Collins said. “And the records are quite clear that the condo is his daughter’s, and the records are quite clear that he changed his voter registration after redistricting. I think he didn’t think this would be an issue.” 

Brian Hughes, a spokesman for Goodson’s campaign, maintained that the lawmaker properly resides in the district.

“The guidelines for residency are clear, and the desperate political attacks of our opponent do not change this fact,” Hughes said in an email.

The state constitution requires that each legislator be at least 21 years old, be an “elector and resident of the district from which elected” and have lived in the state for the prior two years.

Collins’ campaign announced Friday it had sent a mailer to 35,000 primary voters — including one to Goodson at the Titusville condo — to highlight Goodson’s residency status.

Sen. Jack Latvala

Sen. Jack Latvala

Residency standards have been a heavily discussed issue in Tallahassee during the past year. A large part of the debate has stemmed from allegations by Senate Ethics and Elections Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, that Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, did not live in her district. Sachs, who has denied wrongdoing, defeated Latvala ally Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, in a fierce 2012 election, and Sachs and Bogdanoff are running in a rematch this year.

Questions also were raised about the residency of some other lawmakers.

Lawmakers adopted residency rules as the 2014 legislative session opened. Under the joint resolution, lawmakers’ residencies could be determined by a list of 13 factors, including where they are registered to vote, where they claim homestead exemptions and which addresses are listed on driver’s licenses. The rules allow members to have multiple residences, but only one deemed their legal residence. 

Each lawmaker would have to file paperwork after every election saying that he or she lives in the right district.

The questions of Goodson’s residency, however, won’t fall under the rules. The rules were only for the current term that expires upon the 2014 elections and would have to be readopted by lawmakers as the next term gets underway. 

The rules may return for the 2015-16 term. Incoming Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, supports maintaining the residency rules, spokeswoman Katie Betta said in an email. 


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