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July 03. 2014 2:21PM

Ballot Law Commission issues Havenstein written ruling

CONCORD – Basing their decision on the plan language of the state constitution, the two dissenting members of the five-member state Ballot Law Commission said Republican gubernatorial candidate was clearly a resident of Maryland during the past seven years by his own admission.

“By his own words and deeds, Mr. Havenstein has, in the opinion of the undersigned, left no doubt that he was a resident of the State of Maryland within seven years of filing for the office of Governor of the State of New Hampshire, and is, therefore, ineligible to hold that office,” wrote commission members Donald Manning and Roger Wellington, in their dissent.

On a 3-2 vote Monday, the commission upheld the Secretary of State's decision to accept havenstein's filing for governor. Two Republicans and one Democrat -- Chair Brad Cook, Michael Eaton and Martha Van Oot -- voted to back his residency claims, while two Democrats –Manning and Wellington -- did not.

Writing for the majority, Cook states “reviewing the past decisions of this Commission, the law, and the facts, leads to the conclusion that Walter P. Havenstien, 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 requirements to run for Governor.”

When he filed to run for governor last month, Havenstein asked the BLC for a declaratory ruling on his residency to put the issue to rest.

Democrats have claimed Maryland was Havenstein's primary residence until 2012 because he accepted property tax credits reserved for state residents, registered a car in the state, and held a Maryland driver's license.

Havenstein contends he was granted the property tax credit automatically and had to register his car and have a Maryland license by that state's law. He said he returned to New Hampshire as frequently as he could, voted here, and all his tax and contractual documents use his Alton address.

Havenstein told the commission he lived temporarily in Maryland because of his jobs as the chief executive of two defense contractors and always intended to return and retain New Hampshire as his home.

But Democrats argued the framers of the state constitution intended governors to live here and not else where.

They said Havenstein could have claimed New Hampshire as his domicile until 2009 when he left BAE Systems and said he intended to retire and live in New Hampshire, but did not do that.

Instead he became Science Applications International Corporation's chief executive for two-and-a-half years, and when he left that job, sold his Maryland condo and bought a North Carolina condo, while joining a golf club and retired officers club in that community, Democrats noted.

In their dissent, Manning and Wellington argue the plan language of the state constitution says to be governor a person has to be an inhabitant of the state and does not mention intent or domicile. And they say the evidence is clear that Havenstein spent more than half his time in Maryland, held a mortgage on a Maryland condominium that is listed as his primary residence.

Cook notes many facts in the case argue both for and against Havenstein's contention he always remained a resident of New Hampshire.

Cook cites the fact that Havenstein's wife remained in their Alton home, that he voted only in New Hampshire, filed all tax documents with his Alton address, and he always intended it to be his home, support a finding he was an inhabitant of New Hampshire.

“The sworn statement of Mr. Havenstein that the property he was acquiring in Maryland was his ‘primary residence' is troubling,” Cook writes. “The facts in this case make it a close case, but we believe it is clear that Walter P. Havenstein has demonstrated that he meets the legal test set out in law.”

Havenstein will face conservative activist Andrew Hemingway in the Republican primary with the winner challenging Gov. Maggie Hassan in November's general election.

grayno@unionleader.com



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