Natasha Harper-Madison’s residency challenged

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Credit: Natasha Harper-Madison campaign.

Matt Tynan, a former city attorney who is now in private practice, is challenging Natasha Harper-Madison’s eligibility to be a candidate in District 1.

In a complaint filed with the city clerk, Tynan contends that Harper-Madison is not a resident of the district. He cites the Williamson County address she listed on a number of campaign finance reports. She later submitted corrections, which he doesn’t buy. Here is his summary:

The public documents available to, and maintained by, the Office of the City Clerk clearly establish that the candidate subject to this challenge maintains a residence at 10606 Settlers Trail, Austin, Texas (District 6). The candidate launched the current campaign from this address, used this residence address numerous times on filed campaign documents, enjoys a homestead exemption at this address, and used this address for voting in the 2016 elections – including the election for the current City Council representative for District 6.

What remains for consideration is whether the City Charter permits the establishment of a second residence for the purpose of City Council candidacy, whether the candidate has objectively met the requirements to establish any permissible second residence, and whether residency at the secondary address offered was “continuous” so as to support eligibility under municipal standards. Summarily, and based upon the public documents in possession of the City Clerk’s Office, all three (3) questions must be answered in the negative.

Nothing in the City Charter, and certainly not in the intent of the voters supporting the 2012 Charter Amendment shifting the City into single member districts, permits or envisioned candidates being residency qualified from multiple districts. Nor could it be considered congruent with the Charter to allow a candidate to obtain a second temporary residence that would allow them to meet City requirements. Were such obtuse notions to be derived from the Charter language, the candidate has still failed to establish the 13th Street address as a second home sufficient to establish residency under the consistent understanding of this term. Available documentation does not create the nexus of activity and intent sufficient to consider this property a residence for the purpose of candidate eligibility. Further, and even if this East Austin address could be considered a second residence it would fail the continuous requirement of the City Charter. Use of the address has been inconsistent and occasional, broken by frequent returns to the use of the candidate’s primary address in 10606 Settlers Trail in District 6. The candidate’s primary address outside of District 1 was used as recently as October 5, 2018, only a month prior to the General Election.

I reached out to Lauren Hartnett, Harper-Madison’s campaign manager, who provided me this statement from the candidate:

My husband and I have chosen to coparent our children and want to maintain stability for them in their daily lives. My relationship with my husband and the school that my children attend should not be important to the Council race, and it has not been made an issue until recently.

I returned in 2016 to the district I was born in, the district I grew up in, the district I have served since before it was called District 1, and long before I ever thought about running for office.

I returned to East Austin to be close to the community and friends that have provided me support and comfort through everything in my life. That I might have the opportunity to give back to this community is the greatest honor I could imagine. My roots are in District 1, my home is in District 1, and I am running to represent and serve District 1.

Hartnett added that Harper-Madison’s D1 residence has been on her driver’s license as well as her voting address for over a year.
Tynan filed a complaint a few weeks ago challenging both Harper-Madison’s and Vincent Harding’s campaign finance reporting.  Tynan says in the email that the state election commission agreed that Harper-Madison’s campaign report included errors but that the mistakes did not amount to a “facial violation” of the law. The commission continues to investigate Harding, he says.
UPDATE: In his complaint, Tynan says that Harper-Madison should be replaced in the runoff with whoever came in third place in the general election. That would be Vincent Harding.

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