BLC majority says it was a ‘close case’ on Walt’s eligibility to run

CONCORD —In a written opinion issued today supporting its 3-2 decision on Monday that Walt Havenstein meets the constitutional and statutory requirements to run for Governor of New Hampshire, the majority of the state Ballot Law Commission acknowledges it was a “close case.”


But chairman Bradford Cook and members Martha Van Oot and Michael Eaton wrote that the facts of the case “leads to the conclusion that Walter P. Havenstein, regardless of his physical location during various job assignments, important as they were, intended and did remain a New Hampshire ‘inhabitant,’ kept his domicile here and therefore meets the requirement to run for Governor.”


The state constitution requires that to be a candidate for governor and to serve as governor “he shall have been an inhabitant of this state for 7 years next preceding.”


The Republican candidate and retired businessman sought a ruling from the BLC as he filed his candidacy in early June to answer charges by the state Democratic Party that by living in Maryland for most of each of the years 2007 to 2012, while he headed two major corporations, Havenstein relinquished his residency and his domicile, was not an inhabitant of New Hampshire and is ineligible to be a candidate.


The commission issued its vote without comment after a hearing Monday (click here for our earlier report) and followed it up Thursday with written majority and dissenting opinions. To read the full decision click here.


BLC members Donald Manning and Roger Wellington, in their dissent, noted that Havenstein signed documents swearing that his Maryland condominium was his “principal residence” in order to receive a homestead property tax exemption. They wrote that he was exempted from a “recordation tax” by swearing under the penalty of perjury that the property was “ intended to be used as my/our principal residence.”


And, they wrote, because he had sworn that the more than $1 million condominium was his principal residence, he was able to receive a lower interest rate on his mortgage than he would have received on a second home.


“However,” Manning and Wellington wrote, “having availed himself of this lower cost option, Mr. Havenstein cannot retrospectively assert that he always resided in New Hampshire. A plainly worded legal document signed at the time in question should trump Mr. Havenstein’s current declaration that he always had an ‘intention to return’” to New Hampshire.


The majority opinion called Havenstein’s sworn statements declaring the Maryland condominium his principal residence “troubling” and said the fact that he received a driver’s license in Maryland, registered a car in Maryland and “other factors could lead to the conclusion that he in fact abandoned his New Hampshire domicile.”


But the majority wrote that it was persuaded by the facts that Havenstein continuously owned property in New Hampshire since 1999, even while owning property in Maryland; that he remained registered to vote in New Hampshire and voted in the Granite State; that he was “listing his address as new Hampshire almost universally” income tax and other documents; and that he stated he “considered and intended New Hampshire to be his home.”


“The fact that his wife kept living in Alton provides strong support for the assertion that the family kept its domicile in New Hampshire and that Mr. Havenstein viewed himself as an inhabitant of New Hampshire – his physical absence and residential purchase being made only to accommodate the necessities of his job.”


The majority also wrote, “Questions of inhabitancy, residency, domicile and the related (indications) of intent are far more complex in 2014 than the were when many of the laws and cases involved in this matter were written or decided. In the modern world, especially among people in governmental service or international business, employment and assignments take individuals to many places.”

Author: John DiStaso

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