October 28, 2012

Redfern’s Candidacy Exploits ‘the Husted Loophole’ in Ohio Election Residency Law

Filed under: Ohio Politics,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:45 am

A sad situation only voters can fix.

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This item went up in somewhat revised form at Watchdog.org on Thursday. Since then, Third Base Politics has reported that since July, Chris Redfern and his wife have been trying to sell their home in the district he wishes represent while living in Columbus, and that he and the Ohio Democratic Party have scrubbed evidence of that attempted sale and Redfern’s indication that he is from Bexley on the list of Ohio delegates to September’s Democratic National Convention.

Unfortunately, though it’s important that 89th District voters learn what 3BP has found and react accordingly at the ballot box, it doesn’t change the validity of the post’s core contention. It remains the case, thanks to the Husted Loophole, that if Redfern claims that he intends to live in the 89th District after his legislative career is over, a legal challenge to his residency will, unless the Ohio Supreme Court totally changes its mind, fail in the end.

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After a four-year absence from Ohio’s Legislature, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern is running for State Representative in Ohio’s 89th District. The district includes Ottawa and Erie Counties in the northern part of the Buckeye State between Toledo and Cleveland.

There are only two problems. The first is that Redfern doesn’t live in the district, and has said so. The second, thanks to the Ohio Supreme Court, is that Redfern’s demonstrated non-residence doesn’t automatically disqualify him from running. Any reasonable person would think it should.

The blogger who goes by the name “GOHPat the Third Base Politics blog has shown that:

  • Redfern and his wife Kim own two homes in Metro Columbus. One, in suburban Bexley, was purchased in 2007. The couple bought a second residence inside Columbus’s city limits early this year.
  • Redfern was listed as living in Bexley in the roster of Democratic Party delegates attending the party’s September national convention in Charlotte.
  • The Redfern Group, a campaign consulting firm headed by Kim Redfern, lists the couple’s Bexley address as its headquarters.

A person declaring candidacy for public office is required to attest that “I am a qualified elector in the precinct in which my voting residence is located.” You might think that Redfern was on very thin ice making that claim when he submitted his declaration in Ottawa County, even though the Redferns still own a home there. You would be wrong, thanks to none other than Jon Husted, Ohio’s current Secretary of State.

You see, Husted, a Republican, was caught in arguably more damning circumstances late last decade when he was a state representative and then a state senator, declaring himself a resident of Kettering, a Dayton suburb where he owned and still owns a small home, while living for several years with his second wife in a Columbus suburb.

Things came to a head in 2009, when then-Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, ruled that Husted wasn’t a legal resident of Kettering. Husted went to the Ohio Supreme Court to overturn the ruling. Incredibly, he succeeded.

In a unanimous decision, the Court, in the words of the Dayton Daily News, said that Brunner “did not give enough weight to his intent to return to the Kettering home when his public service ends.” Thus, what I have now dubbed “the Husted Loophole” was born. Any candidate can declare an intent to “someday” return to reside in his or her district, regardless of whether it’s the truth, and no one can do a thing about it.

Husted’s expressed intent was and remains hardly credible. His current wife’s real estate firm was and still is in Metro Columbus. In 2009, I personally observed his Kettering “residence” from the outside and found it to be a clearly unoccupied 1,300-foot shell in which a couple of the Husteds’ means would not deign to live. By contrast, the Redferns’ Catawba Island home in Ottawa County is spacious. If pressured, Chris Redfern’s claim to want to move back there eventually would be at least have a shred of believability.

Unfortunately for “GOHP” and 89th District voters, any action attempted by Husted against Redfern would reek of hypocrisy and fail miserably on precedent. The only remaining control is in the hands of the District’s voters, who, thanks to “GOHP,” at least have a chance to learn the truth. If they believe it important that they be represented by someone who cares enough about them to live where they do and thereby stay in touch with their concerns, they will vote for a true resident of the District, meaning someone other than Chris Redfern.

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4 Comments

  1. From the article, “By contrast, the Redferns’ Catawba Island home in Ottawa County is spacious. If pressured, Chris Redfern’s claim to want to move back there eventually would be at least have a shred of believability.”

    Not really. A little research would show that Redferns Catawba Island home is for sale for a cool $900,000. This lends credence to the idea that Redfern does not intend to return as a resident in his district.

    Comment by Rbeau — October 29, 2012 @ 2:42 pm

  2. #1, The intro makes it clear that I’m aware of the new developments, and yes, they shred any credibility Redfern might have had. I looked to see if his house was for sale at Zillow before submitting the item to Watchdog, and it wasn’t (doesn’t mean it was listed somewhere else, but it may have been pulled from Zillow too by the time I saw it a few days after 3BP broke the story.

    Comment by Tom — October 29, 2012 @ 7:02 pm

  3. Two things: 1. just how do Chris and Kim afford all this real estate? 2. Redfern filed election petitions before the March primary, no later than December 2011, declaring himself a resident of the 89th. While a candidate in the 89th, he was a Democratic convention delegate from Franklin County, according to the ODP’s press releases. Shouldn’t that declaration of Franklin County residency negated his petition to run as a state legislator from Ottawa County?

    Comment by Tony — October 30, 2012 @ 9:34 am

  4. That would be something a person challenging Redfern’s residency could affirmatively assert. If he explained it away as a “clerical error,” as he almost certainly would if push ever came to shove, it would probably negate any challenge.

    Additionally, as my post points out, it all goes back to stated “intent” AFTER a person’s political career is over. He can state that intent even after he sells his house, and no one can successfully challenge it unless he has made statements to others like “we’re here in Columbus to stay forever” or something on that order. Even then, he can claim he was just being polite the natives.

    What a disgraceful mess.

    As to how they can afford all of their plush digs — good question.

    Comment by Tom — October 30, 2012 @ 9:53 am

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