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October 20, 2014

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A politician’s home is where the cat is, not necessarily the wife and kids

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Assemblyman Andrew Martin takes part in a committee meeting Friday, Feb. 8, 2013 during the 2013 legislative session in Carson City.

Nevada’s state and local elected officials are supposed to live in the same districts they represent.

In theory, they are neighbors or community members who understand and care about local issues. But for some candidates, districts are arbitrary boundaries and home means Nevada.

They may have second homes, condos or apartments in various districts. So how can you tell where somebody really lives?

The law is unclear about what constitutes an actual residence, a matter Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, and Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, hope to clear up this legislative session.

“Pat and I are going to work on that long-term,” Kirkpatrick said. “We need to give some real concrete definitions.”

Here’s a look at how various judges have defined an actual residence in the past:

    • Home is where your cat lives

      The Nevada Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that Kevin Williams, a candidate for the Clark County Commission, did not live in the Koval Lane apartment he said he did. Instead, the court found his primary residence was a house outside of the commission district.

      What did the court mean by primary residence?

      “Your home is where your cat lives, and for Kevin that was not at Koval Lane,” the court declared.

    • Home is where you plug in your car

      In the most recent case, Assemblyman Andrew Martin, D-Las Vegas, was ruled ineligible for the ballot on the eve of the election but nonetheless is now serving in the Legislature. A judge weighed Martin’s Durango Drive apartment against his Daylight Moss Street home. Martin claimed the Durango Drive apartment inside the district was his primary residence. The judge disagreed. Why?

      Martin owned a Chevrolet Volt, and “as a practical matter, it was impossible for him to charge his Volt at the Durango address, and Mr. Martin acknowledged that he would do this at the Daylight Moss garage.”

    • Home is where you collect your newspaper

      In 2006, former County Commissioner Lynette Boggs was filmed at a house outside of her district collecting a newspaper in a pink bathrobe, evidence enough during campaign season to play a role in her defeat at the ballot. Culinary Union Local 226 and the Las Vegas Police Protective Association had hired a private investigator to shadow Boggs, and although this particular matter never made it to court, the definition of primary residence was decided at the ballot box.

    • Home isn’t necessarily where your wife and kids are

      In 2008, then-Assemblywoman (and current state Senator) Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, sued Trent Baldwin, a Republican candidate who moved away from his wife and foster children into a $300-a-month rented room so that he could run against Smith in Assembly District 30.

      But moving away from the wife and kids to an apartment was legitimate, a Washoe District Court judge ruled.

      The judge, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal, said that Baldwin did what "a person must reasonably do" under a state law that requires candidates to live in the district for at least 30 days before filing for office.

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