2016-11-17 / Front Page

Rep answers to residency challenge

By Anthony Aloisio
Staff Writer

OLD ORCHARD BEACH/AUGUSTA – House District 13 Rep. George Hogan has denied a challenge on his apparent lack of residency within the district, which precisely covers Old Orchard Beach. The challenge to his residency appeared first in a post on the Facebook page “York County Republicans.”

“While he has two properties in his name, one is an occupied rental property, the other was rented out last summer and is currently vacant,” read the post.

The post was accompanied by a scan of an affidavit signed by Richard and Margaret Bayles, who live in the neighborhood of one of Hogan’s properties, 17 Fern Park Ave.

“Since just after Labor Day or mid-September, the residence . . . has been unoccupied,” the affidavit read. “We have never seen anybody living there since that time. We knew a woman who appeared to be in her thirties or forties and her mother lived there during the summer.”

According to Town Clerk Kim McLaughlin, the Bayleses are registered with the Republican Party, and were appointed ballot clerks by the party. Hogan is a Democrat.

“I really don’t think asking our state representatives to live in the town they represent is too much to ask,” wrote York County Republican Committee Chairman Jim Booth in an email to the Courier.

The Facebook post claimed that Hogan has in fact been living in Saco with his girlfriend. According to McLaughlin, there were also reports that on the night of Monday, Nov. 7, Old Orchard Beach residents received phone calls that played a recorded message with the claims about Hogan’s residency.

“I’ve lived in Old Orchard Beach 74 years, and never lived any place else,” Hogan told the Courier. “I bought another house, and we’re in the process of renovating it, and I’m staying with my girlfriend in Saco right now. I’ll be back into that house within probably a month.”

Hogan said that 17 Fern Park Ave. is the property being renovated, and that he will return there when the renovation is complete. Hogan said his kitchen is being renovated.

“Right now we’re doing demolition,” Hogan said.

Hogan is registered to vote with the address 17 Seacliff Ave., which is the other property he owns; Hogan provided the same address to the Courier for his candidate survey, published in the Oct. 20 issue.

Neighbors of Hogan’s at both his houses, aside from the Bayleses, were interviewed for this story, but declined to go on record.

“I’m not concerned at all,” Hogan said. “I know I’m coming under the law. Rumors can fly all they want.”

Article IV of Maine’s Constitution requires, among other things, that a member of the House must have been a resident of the district they represent for three months preceding the election. However, also according to Article IV, all discretion for how to apply that requirement lies with the House.

According to Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, the residency requirement is given a broad interpretation.

“It’s very, very amorphous,” Dunlap said. “Residency for the purpose of elections and voting really boils down to where you intend to regularly return.”

“Based on our experience and the language of the constitution, it fits, (Hogan) can do that,” Dunlap continued. “We’ve seen that happen a number of times.”

According to Dunlap, after an election, eligibility questions, if they arise, are handled by a House committee.

“There’s a standing committee on elections that’s usually appointed on swearing-in day,” Dunlap said. “If there are any disputes about eligibility, then the matter is referred to that committee, and they will deliberate it and make a recommendation to the full House. That is final, there’s no court appeal, there’s no review, the House and Senate are the final judge of the qualification of their members.”

According to Dunlap, in any case where a House member is unseated, the most likely next step is to have a special election to fill the seat. The seat does not go to another candidate from that election.

Although Dunlap expressed that Hogan’s case appeared to be acceptable, it does happen that members lose their seats because of residency violations.

“I remember circumstances where a constituent was trying to track the representative down, and couldn’t find them, went to the address in the House register, and found out it was a business,” Dunlap said. “It turned out that the member did not at all live in the district.”

Dunlap spoke well of Hogan.

“I know the man. He’s a great guy, he’s an honorable person,” Dunlap said. “If he hadn’t felt like he would be able to serve, he probably wouldn’t have run.”

House Republican leader Representative Ken Fredette gave comments on the situation after the claims were made, but before the election.

“I do not condone these types of personal attacks on candidates for the Maine Legislature,” Fredette said in an email. “With the election right around the corner, we should all be focused on the issues that are important to the people of Maine, not these types of attacks.”

“I grew up here, my family grew up there, my mother and father grew up there, and I’m tired of dealing with this foolishness,” Hogan said. “I really am.”

Contact Staff Writer Anthony Aloisio at news@inthecourier.com.

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