Filing has just begun for the 2014 General Elections, yet the race for the office of 424th District Judge has already started. Incumbent Judge Dan Mills is being challenged by Lampasas lawyer Evan Stubbs.
Stubbs, a native of Johnson City, who now resides in Burnet County with his family, has a law office in the City of Lampasas. While Stubbs now lives securely within the Burnet County limits, there has been a document making the rounds that challenges whether or not he has lived in the county for the requisite two years prior to November 4, 2014, the date of the general election.
In a response to the document, Stubbs asserts that his opponent, Judge Mills is responsible for it, saying, “My opponent has provided several of you with information challenging my legal qualifications to run against him for judge of the 424th Judicial District of Texas, which covers Burnet, Blanco, Llano and San Saba Counties. I regret the campaign has taken such a negative turn before the filing period has even opened, but feel I must respond to the residency issue he has raised.”
The numbered document questions the timeline of when and where Stubbs voted and lived over the course of the last two years, beginning with his resignation from the Lampasas City Council in June of 2011, saying that he had purchased property out of the city limits and in Burnet County and that they planned to move there in the near future.
The day after his resignation was submitted, Stubbs registered to vote in Burnet County, giving an address of 3530 Burnet County Road 105 as his new address. The document questions the existence of the address, to which Stubbs replies, “the house has no 9-1-1 sign, no mailbox, and no address numbers that I could find, as of a few days ago when I took our kids out to visit our friend. However, following some research, I believe that the address is actually 3430 instead of 3530 (based on Appraisal District documents), but the house definitely exists, and has for some 80 or 90 or maybe 100 years.”
In the spring of 2012, the Stubbs family began construction on a new home. In October of 2012, records indicate that Stubbs voted in Burnet County, using the address of the new home, on FM 1478 in Burnet County, even though construction was not completed, according to an affidavit of completion submitted by Stubbs, of December 15, 2012. Stubbs said that he changed his address when he went to vote since they had obtained their new house number.
According to the State of Texas Election Code “a voter does not have to have a ‘permanent address’, does not have to use a homestead address, and if a voter owns more than one home a voter chooses which home he/she will use for voter registration.” In addition, the elections administrators of both Blanco and Llano County agreed, “Voter registrars need to know where a voter resides in order to provide the correct precinct number. Voters do not have to have a 911 address, for instance. homeless people can be registered to vote but give an address such as “under the Congress Avenue Bridge.”
Candidates running for office must register with their party chairs; in local races, that would be the county chairs, however, for District Judge, candidates must register with their state party. When asked about verification of addresses when registering to run, Republican Party Chair Steve Munisteri responded, “There are many factors to consider, but in summary the courts have held it is where you intend for your permanent residence to be not necessarily where you are at the moment. Only way to know for sure is to go to court for a ruling.”
So, while there are rules about how long you must have lived in a county or district to qualify as a candidate, there is so straight forward method for determining whether or not a candidate lives where they say they live. There is no checklist, no known verification system.
Regarding questions about where his wife voted and lived, Stubbs offered, “she is not running for any elected office and her residency is not relevant to anyone other than my opponent in this attempt at a smear campaign.”
Other questions stemming from the aforementioned document regard homestead exemptions – Stubbs filed for one on his Lampasas home for the year 2012, and said that the rule is as long as a married couple only claims one home, it doesn’t matter if they both resided in that home together for that year. Stubbs had filed a homestead exemption on his Lampasas home every year since 2009, according to the Lampasas County Central Appraisal District’s website.
Stubbs filed for a Homestead Exemption on the newly constructed home in March 2013.
Echoing a similar statement made by the State Republican Chair, Stubbs said, “From a legal standpoint, the Texas Supreme Court has stated that, for election purposes; ‘residence depends upon the circumstances surrounding the person involved and largely depends upon an individual’s present intentions. Volition, intention, and action are factors to be considered.’ “
In conclusion, Stubbs said, “My wife and I chose to move back here to raise our kids and to make this place our home. I have chosen to run for this office, and to undergo the inconvenience of making sure that I meet the residency requirements simply because I truly believe that I can make a positive difference for the people of this District.”
Incumbent Judge Dan Mills did not offer any comments, but said that he would let the voters consider the information and make their own judgment.