Walt Havenstein Between a Rock and a Hard Place with Ballot Eligibility Questions
Candidate Pushed by Washington Republicans Either Ineligible to Run in NH or Committed Tax Fraud in MD
Concord, NH–Yesterday, a front-page Nashua Telegraph expose outlined how potential NHGOP gubernatorial candidate Walt Havenstein took Maryland property tax breaks that required his principal residence to be in that state, raising a host of questions and putting his potential candidacy in doubt. But this much is clear: Havenstein either is ineligible to run in New Hampshire or he committed tax fraud in Maryland.
New Hampshire’s Constitution requires candidates for Governor to “have been an inhabitant of this state for 7 years next preceding.” The Telegraph uncovered that Havenstein “saved $5,354 from 2008-11 by getting a homestead exemption from local property taxes in Bethesda, Md. He also paid a lower state property transfer tax while buying the property in that state. To get both, Havenstein had to acknowledge that his $1 million condominium was his ‘principal residence.’”
Under Maryland law, ”Principal residence” has been defined to mean the “one dwelling where the homeowner regularly resides and is the location designated by the owner for the legal purposes of voting, obtaining a driver’s license, and filing income tax returns.”
A Maryland law was enacted in 2007 that requires all homeowners to submit an application stating that they meet the principal residence requirements, under penalty of perjury. According to the Telegraph, “Havenstein said he didn’t recall signing that form.”
“Despite Walt Havenstein’s selective memory, in order to receive the tax breaks he received, Maryland law required Havenstein to certify that his Maryland home was his principal residence, including for voting, paying taxes, driver’s license and car registration,” said Julie McClain, NHDP Communications Director. “That certification and Maryland law clearly makes Havenstein ineligible to run for state office under New Hampshire’s Constitution. For him to state otherwise is to assert that he was committing tax fraud in Maryland, raising a whole other set of legal questions for Mr. Havenstein.”
Havenstein admitted to the Telegraph that he did in fact register a car in Maryland, but continued to vote in New Hampshire, despite the requirement under his homestead property tax credit that he vote in Maryland. Havenstein did not indicate where he filed his income taxes.
McClain continued, “The questions surrounding Walt Havenstein’s actions are quite serious and could suggest misconduct. Why did Havenstein think it was acceptable to vote in New Hampshire when he was claiming his residence for voting purposes in another state? Does he realize that by continuing to vote in New Hampshire, he was likely committing tax fraud in Maryland? Was he also using New Hampshire as an income tax shelter, or did he file his taxes in Maryland as required? If Havenstein – the handpicked candidate of Washington Republicans – were to run for governor, he would have an extremely difficult time explaining his actions to the Ballot Law Commission and Maryland authorities, not to mention Granite State voters.”