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Digging deeper into Jerry McNerney’s residency

Rep. Jerry McNerney on Wednesday said there’s nothing to a Stockton Record story questioning whether he actually now lives in Stockton, where he re-registered to vote and cast a ballot for June’s primary, or if he still lives at his longtime home in Pleasanton.

Jerry McNerney“I am living in Stockton,” McNerney said, calling from his Washington, D.C. office. “The transition has been more difficult than I expected, has taken longer than I expected … but I’ll be home (from Washington) in August and I’ll be there the whole month.”

Pressed on where he spends most of his nights while in the Golden State, McNerney replied, “when I’m in California, I’m spending a significant amount of time in Stockton, I haven’t counted the nights.” Asked about his legal residence, he replied, “Legally, it’s absolutely Stockton – I’m registered to vote there, I’m paying bills there, I’m sleeping there – it’s absolutely my legal address.”

The Democrat is seeking a fourth term in the newly drawn 9th Congressional District, which doesn’t include Pleasanton; however, a candidate isn’t required to live in the House district in which he or she runs, only in the same state. The question is whether McNerney ran afoul of the state Election Code by registering and voting in Stockton.

One of the key code sections seems to be:

2026. The domicile of a Member of the Legislature or a Representative in the Congress of the United States shall be conclusively presumed to be at the residence address indicated on that person’s currently filed affidavit of registration.

On its face, it sounds like this means that wherever a lawmaker is currently registered is his or her domicile, which would put McNerney in the clear. But the campaign of Ricky Gill, McNerney’s Republican challenger, today provided a 2011 California Court of Appeal decision that might indicate otherwise.

Lots more, after the jump…

That ruling, in the case brought against state Sen. Roderick Wright, D-Inglewood, said “this conclusive presumption applies only if the address indicated on the legislator’s currently filed affidavit of voter registration is one of the legislator’s legal residences.”

Gill’s campaign said the Record’s evidence – including that McNerney merely rented the Stockton home but still owns, and claims a homeowner’s tax exemption for, the Pleasanton home; that his car is still registered in Pleasanton; and that sightings of McNerney at the Stockton home have been spotty – overwhelmingly shows the Stockton home isn’t McNerney’s legal residence.

Gill issued a statement saying “McNerney’s false residency claim is just one more insult to the people of Stockton and San Joaquin County, where I was born and raised. We deserve better than an outsourced Congressman who believes he is above the law.”

James Fisfis, Gill’s campaign consultant, added that “voter fraud is a serious matter. This case needs to be investigated thoroughly to give voters confidence that the same rules apply to everyone — even politicians like Jerry McNerney.”

Accusations of fraud in voter-registration statements can be made to and investigated by either the Secretary of State’s office or a county district attorney, Chief Deputy Secretary of State Evan Goldberg said Wednesday.

“Under the law, when a person fills out a voter registration form, they’re asked to put down their home address, and then asked to sign under penalty of perjury that the information they put down in true and correct,” Goldberg said, noting state law’s definitions:

349. (a) “Residence” for voting purposes means a person’s domicile.
(b) The domicile of a person is that place in which his or her habitation is fixed, wherein the person has the intention of remaining, and to which, whenever he or she is absent, the person has the intention of returning. At a given time, a person may have only one domicile.
(c) The residence of a person is that place in which the person’s habitation is fixed for some period of time, but wherein he or she does not have the intention of remaining. At a given time, a person may have more than one residence.

“But there is no test that a person registering to vote must use the place where their car is registered, or where they take their homeowner’s exemption, or that they are there for a certain percentage of time,” Goldberg added.

Asked about the accusations, McNerney replied, “They’re going to try anything they can, that’s the way they operate, though I’m a little bit disturbed that they would stalk my wife and myself, knock on my neighbors’ doors in Stockton.”

McNerney said he expects that his wife, who has been readying their Pleasanton home to be rented out, will join him in Stockton by the end of August. “I rented a house, I’m paying for it, I’m moving stuff into it,” he said, and it shouldn’t be any wonder that with the spring primary approaching, updating his voter registration in April was among his top priorities.

Ironically, McNerney rented the Stockton home via Partners Property Management, a father-and-son outfit run by Bruce and Matthew Davies. Gill just last week cancelled a fundraiser that was to have been co-hosted by Bruce Davies, in large part because Matthew Davies was recently indicted on federal marijuana cultivation charges.

McNerney, who rented the house months before Davies’ indictment, said he’d been unaware of the connection until a reporter asked him about it Wednesday. “Good catch … I didn’t know anything about who they were.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.