YOU DECIDE: Email Raises Questions About Miklosi’s Residency Woes

Jan 12, 12 YOU DECIDE: Email Raises Questions About Miklosi’s Residency Woes

Even before Colorado’s two major parties went toe-to-toe over Colorado’s congressional and state legislative maps in 2011, state Rep. Joe Miklosi, D-Denver, threw his hat in the ring to run against incumbent Republican Congressman Mike Coffman.  At issue: At the time of his announcement, no one knew where Congressional district lines would be drawn.  Even if Miklosi had predicted, accurately as it turns out, that Coffman’s 6th district—traditionally a strong conservative stronghold—would become more competitive for Democrats, he still didn’t reside within the new 6th District’s boundaries.

Congressional residency requirements do not mandate that a candidate reside in the district he or she seeks to represent.  Of note, Colorado voters have shown a willingness to elect outsider candidates.  Take Bob Beauprez’s move to Arvada from Lafayette in 2002 to strengthen his successful 7th Congressional District bid. While Beauprez was able to overcome opposition attacks related to his move, Miklosi may more cumbersome challenges in the Democratic primary he now faces against Perry Haney, a Greenwood Village doctor and small businessman.

Haney has already emphasized his close ties to the local community. “My patients are proud residents of the 6th, and I know what people are facing every day as they are forced to bail out Wall Street and deal with their political leaders inability to get things done,” he told The Denver Post in December.

Based on a January 10th email obtained by OGI, Miklosi is still looking for a place to live in the 6th District—more than a month after the new, more favorable, maps were finalized. So why hasn’t Miklosi moved yet?  It appears he doesn’t see a strong sense of urgency.

Here is a screen shot of his email to a local realtor:

 

 

The email raises questions not only about Miklosi’s current living arrangements, but also whether he misused state resources for political purposes, whether he intends to stay in the district for the long haul, and finally, whether he can responsibly balance his obligations to his current constituents in state House District 9 (which, at minimum, he represents through the end of this year’s legislative session).

These are complicated questions that deserve answers.  After reading the Q & A below, we ask you to decide: How should Miklosi’s residency woes play into his candidacy?

  1. IF MIKLOSI DOESN’T LIVE IN THE 6TH CD, CAN HE RUN TO REPRESENT THE DISTRICT IN 2012?

ANSWER: YES.

EXPLANATION: While state and federal law does not require congressional candidates to live in the districts they seek to represent (only state residency is required), a candidate moving into a district for the express purpose of seeking higher office often draws public suspicion about personal motives.  Noting this, a candidate who moves from one district to another should be given a fair opportunity by voters, media and opponents to explain his or her motives in doing so.

  1. DOES MIKLOSI’S EMAIL VIOLATE ETHICAL RULES GOVERNING ELECTED OFFICIALS SEEKING HIGHER OFFICE?

ANSWER: Maybe.

EXPLANATION: Use of state resources are prohibited for campaign purposes.  While Miklosi’s signature line includes his current position as a state legislator, it does not show the address he was sending the message from. While the rules permit legislators to use their official state email for business purposes, this email can only be reasonably presumed as to facilitate Miklosi’s move into the 6th CD from his current southeast Denver district. From the state legislature’s Web site: “It is improper and unethical to use state equipment and state services such as offices, telephones, internet access accounts, copiers, fax machines, computers, postage, supplies, and staff time for campaign or personal purposes. Use of state equipment for these purposes holds potential civil and criminal liability. See, Colo. const. art. XXVIII, sec. 9 (2) (a), Colo. const. art. XXVIII, sec. 10, and Section 1-45-117 (4), C.R.S.http://www.state.co.us/gov_dir/leg_dir/olls/ethics/q13.htm

If he didn’t use his state email, he’s fine.  But if he did, he may be in trouble. While Miklosi can argue that use of his taxpayer-funded account was for personal purposes, his reason for moving—to run for office—should also come into play.  If he weren’t running for Congress, it’s unreasonable to assume that he would be looking for a “short-term” apartment anywhere outside of his current state House district.  Thus, the request—regardless of which email account it was sent from—was made for prohibited political purposes.

  1. WILL MIKLOSI BE PERMITTED TO VOTE IN HIS OWN PRIMARY CAUCUS ON MARCH 6TH?

ANSWER: NO.

EXPLANATION: Under state law governing voting eligibility, a Democratic voter must have registered as a Democrat in his or her current precinct by January 6, 2012 in order to participate in the party’s March 6th caucuses.  From C.R.S. 1-3-101, “In order to vote at any precinct caucus, assembly, or convention of a political party, the elector shall be a resident of the precinct for thirty days, shall have registered to vote no later than twenty-nine days before the caucus, assembly, or convention, and shall be affiliated with the political party holding the caucus, assembly, or convention for at least two months as shown on the registration books of the county clerk and recorder.”

Recall that Miklosi’s email was dated January 10th, four days after the caucus registration deadline. In a competitive primary race, this inevitably means that Miklosi can’t vote for himself.  More importantly, however, do voters know he still hasn’t made the move?  Practically speaking, does this mean he intends to vote in his Denver House district instead? He might not even be able to do that. Under Colorado law, the test for determining whether a voter can vote in his or her precinct is based on a two part test.  First, had the elector established his principal or primary home or place of abode within the election precinct? and second, was the individual’s departure taken or does his absence continue with a present intention of returning to the precinct in the future? Gordon v. Blackburn, 618 P.2d 668 (Colo. 1980).

The key point, as OGI sees it, is that all voters have the facts necessary to determine whether a candidate’s residency status matters to them when they head to their caucuses in March.  Miklosi owes it to his current Denver constituents, as well as those he seeks to represent in the 6th CD, to make his intentions known.

  1. DOES MIKLOSI’S EMAIL GIVE INSIGHT INTO HIS MOTIVES?

ANSWER: Unknown.

EXPLANATION:  In his email, Miklosi requested information on a “short term” rental of a “unique” property.  Here at OGI, we hesitate to read too much into his exact language, but we also concede that his use of a state legislative signature line hints that he may be asking for a special favor in finding a place.  Further, his request for a short-term rental also suggests that he doesn’t intend to stay in the district if he loses in the Democratic primary.  What would this mean for his Denver constituents? Alternatively, to be fair, he might be seeking a short term option with a goal of purchasing a home when circumstances permit.

  1. While this may seem like a long shot, what happens if Miklosi loses in the Democratic primary or pulls out of the race before the primary? Would he be eligible to run for re-election in his current district?

ANSWER: A likely no.

EXPLANATION: Given Miklosi’s ambitious moves to challenge Coffman, we could see him returning to his current Denver district if things don’t go well.  Perhaps what would stop him: unlike requirements for federal candidates, Colorado’s state legislative candidates must have resided in the district they are running  from for the 12 month period immediately before the election.  If Miklosi changes his primary residence to the 6th CD, he would lose his ability to run as an incumbent for his current seat in November.