By JOHN DiSTASO, News Editor
CONCORD – The state Democratic Party has filed its long expected challenge to Republican candidate for governor Walt Havenstein’s claim that he has been an inhabitant of the state for at least seven years and is eligible to run for, and serve as, chief executive under the state constitution.
The NHDP, in a comprehensive filing with the state Ballot Law Commission, says Havenstein is clearly ineligible because he considered and formally declared Maryland to be his principle place of residence in numerous ways from January 2007 to June 2012.
“Walt Havenstein’s self-serving self-challenge omitted a host of key facts about actions he took — including under oath — to establish himself as a Maryland resident,” said NHDP Chairman Raymond Buckley.
In a filing by party legal counsel Gregory Ahlgren, the NHDP said, “(N)ot only has Havenstein failed to provide any indication that he designated New Hampshire as his principal place of residence, he has repeatedly declared his principal place of residence to be Maryland. Even as recently as June 30, 2012, Havenstein declared Maryland to be his principal residence in order to take homestead tax credits.”
Buckley said Havenstein “is either ineligible to run in New Hampshire or was misleading Maryland on his taxes. Right now, Havenstein appears to be arguing that he was misleading on his taxes, but either way it’s clear he’s wrong for New Hampshire.”
Havenstein, realizing that the Democrats would claim that he is ineligible, filed his own petition with the Ballot Law Commission on June 11, asking for a declaratory judgment that has been an inhabitant of the Granite State for seven years and is eligible to run for and serve as governor.
A BLC hearing is scheduled for next Monday, June 30, at the Legislative Office Building. The NHDP asked that the hearing be delayed while Havenstein provides more documents it is seeking, but BLC chairman Bradford Cook said the hearing will be held as scheduled.
Havenstein’s petition says that he moved to Bedford in 1999 and then to Alton in 2004. It says he has voted in Alton, “and nowhere else,” since 2004 and that he always considered Alton his home and always returned, and intended to return, there.
His petition says that when he became chairman and CEO of BAE Systems, Inc., based in Maryland, in 2007, he purchased a condominium in Bethesda, Maryland, “and commuted home to Alton, New Hampshire on weekend, holidays and whenever else possible.”
Havenstein acknowledges he did in fact qualify for and take a “recordation tax exemption” after declaring that he intended to occupy the Bethesda residence for at least seven of the next 12 months immediately after the property was conveyed and that it is considered “a principal residence.” He also qualified for and received a “Maryland homestead tax exemption on his condominium as his principal residence under Maryland law.”
But Havenstein’s petition says that while receiving these exemptions, Havenstein “did not change his domicile from New Hampshire to Maryland.
“His residence in Maryland was temporary while he completed his duties at BAE Systems, Inc., toward the end of a long and successful business career, after which he intended to reside full-tine at his domicile in Alton, New Hampshire,” his petition says.
Havenstein also acknowledged that when he purchased an automobile in Maryland, he was required to register his vehicle in Maryland and to obtain a Maryland driver’s license.
The petition says that he “temporarily resided in Maryland for work,” but did not change his voter registration in Alton, was involved in civic organizations in the Granite State, paid property taxes in New Hampshire and filed federal income tax forms from Alton. He also received bank statements in Alton, kept a New Hampshire telephone number.
But the Democratic filing reports numerous instances in which Havenstein officially declared Maryland as his principle residence.
It says that when Havenstein he decided to “avail himself of certain Maryland tax breaks available only to Maryland residents,” Havenstein swore under oath the condominium he purchased was intended to be his “principle residence by actually occupying the residence for at least seven of the next 12 months immediately after the property is conveyed.”
“That intention is inconsistent with an intention to have his principle place of physical presence be New Hampshire,” the NHDP said.
The party said it is also inconsistent with a New Hampshire law’s requirement that to be considered a New Hampshire inhabitant, an individual must have, “through all of his actions, demonstrated a current intent to designate (New Hampshire) as his principal place of physical presence for the indefinite future to the exclusion of all others.”
The NHDP says that in May 2012, when Havenstein sold the Maryland residence, he and his wife again swore the property was his “principal residence” in order to avoid an IRS requirement that the gain on the sale of residential property be added to his gross income.
The party says Havenstein also received “homestead credits” to reduce real estate taxes paid for his Maryland residence from 2008 through 2011. To take the credit, the party says, under the laws of Maryland, Havenstein again declared the Maryland condominium to be his “principle residence.”
The party said it was another example of Havenstein not meeting the New Hampshire legal requirement of being a New Hampshire resident because, he did not designate New Hampshire as his “principle place of physical presence for the indefinite future to the exclusion of all others,” as the law requires.
The party noted that an $850,000 mortgage Havenstein obtained to purchase the condominium declared that condo as his “principal residence” for a least one year. He also received a Maryland driver’s license, which required “proof of residence in the State of Maryland.”
It also points out he used his Bethesda, Maryland, address in at least one document attached to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.
The party points out that under New Hampshire’s motor vehicle code, “no person shall be deemed to be a resident who claims residence in any other state for any purpose.”
“Once Mr. Havenstein chose to declare Maryland his principle place of residence, he ceased to be either a resident or inhabitant of New Hampshire for any purpose,” Ahlgren wrote.
Ahlgren wrote that under New Hampshire law, Havenstein was ineligible for a fishing license, ineligible to attend state colleges at in-state tuition rates and ineligible for resident discounts at state ski areas.
The party also noted that Havenstein had “significant personal and social contacts in the Bethesda, Maryland, area,” and even advocated for Maryland as a business destination in an appearance in a video by the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.
The party says he attended a panel discussion at a meeting of the Democratic Governors Association and “praises the ability of Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley to partner with industry.” O’Malley is a Democrat.