By Michael Cass and Nate Rau, The Tennessean
Jason Potts wants your vote in the Aug. 2 Democratic primary, and
he's going to need it. After all, the House District 53 candidate won't
be able to vote for himself.
Charles Williamson says he already
cast a ballot for himself in District 50. But the Republican shouldn't
have, based on Metro Codes documents and rulings that show he can't
legally live where he registered to vote.
Potts, already a Metro
councilman, does not yet live in the South Nashville legislative
district he seeks to represent in the General Assembly. He's one of
several candidates who haven't established residency this year in the
districts where they're campaigning for voters' support.
"I do think it's important to live in the place you're going to represent," said Jason Powell, Potts' primary opponent.
Powell had his own bit part in the game of musical homes that tends to
play out every 10 years in the wake of redistricting by the legislature.
He just moved to the district himself in March, after he had already
picked up a candidate qualifying position.
The candidates have
benefited from a timing quirk in state election law, which allows them
to run from beyond a district's borders but requires them to live within
them to hold the office.
Earlier this year, a Knox County judge
removed state Senate candidate Shelley Breeding from the ballot over
residency concerns. Breeding said her home was in Knox County, but the
judge determined the border property was actually in Anderson County. A
state appeals court upheld the ruling, and the Tennessee Supreme Court
declined to consider the case further.
Susan Lynn, a former state
representative running to reclaim the District 57 seat she held for
eight years, now lives in District 46. Lynn has said lawmakers,
including Rep. Linda Elam, who replaced her, redrew the Wilson County
district to exclude her.
Candidates for state representative must
live in the districts in which they're running by Nov. 6, the day of the
general election, said Joan Nixon, deputy administrator of elections
with the Davidson County Election Commission.
Greer, the election commission's chairman, said commissioners look into
any complaints they receive about a candidate's or voter's residency
and forward their findings to the district attorney general's office if
necessary. He said there have been no complaints this year.
Occupancy permit hits new snags
The Tennessean last week
revealed that no occupancy permit had been issued for Williamson's
Goodlettsville property, which he listed as his residence when he
registered to vote and filed his District 50 qualifying petition earlier
Williamson subsequently applied for an occupancy
permit on Friday. But his application has hit some snags. The renovated
barn he listed as his residence is at least partially in what Metro
Water Services categorizes as an unstudied flood zone.
That means a
surveyor must determine if the barn is at least 4 feet above flood
levels before an occupancy permit may be issued. Significant work could
have to be performed to make it comply with stormwater regulations.
also must install an expanded septic system to obtain Metro Public
Health Department approval for a residence. In 2003, he received
approval for a septic tank to accommodate a small bathroom, not a more
comprehensive septic system that a residence would require.
approval and installation is strictly for a restroom in a barn," health
department official Brent Hager said. "There are notes all over the
approval sheet (from 2003) that say this barn is not to contain any
bedrooms or to be used as a living unit."
manager, Claire Ratliff, said Williamson received approval for plumbing,
electrical and other permits in 2003. Williamson said he didn't know
why an occupancy permit was never issued.
Although he owns a
million-dollar mansion in Old Hickory, where he ran for another House
seat in 2010, Williamson said he is still living on the Goodlettsville
property despite lacking the proper permits there. Williamson runs a
bison ranch at the Baker Road address, which he also listed as the home
to his engineering business.
He said he already cast his ballot in early voting.
going to talk with Codes and see exactly what can be done here," he
said. "There's been a mix-up somewhat administratively on the codes."
residency isn't the only part of his public record under scrutiny
lately. His Republican credentials have been questioned based on his votes in past Democratic primaries and a $500 donation he made in 2005 to state Rep. Gary Moore, the retiring Democrat he's now seeking to replace.
Planning to move, questioning rival
Potts, who has been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, said
his house at 3914 East Ridge Drive is about two blocks outside District
53. He said he'll move soon if he's "fortunate enough to win the
"We were planning to move anyways," he said, noting that his wife is expecting a child soon.
in turn, questioned his rival's residency. Powell picked up a
qualifying petition on Feb. 24, when he still listed 1007 Warren St.,
just north of downtown, as his residence. He said he moved to 371 Lynn
Drive in District 53 the next month, leasing the house with an option to
buy it later this year.
But to avoid confusion, he kept the
Warren Street address - which he and his wife still own - on his
petition when he submitted it on April 4, the day before the qualifying
Six days later, Powell changed his voter registration to
371 Lynn Drive. Potts said he doesn't think Powell legally lives there,
noting that he doesn't own the property. But on Monday, Powell sent The
Tennessean electric and water bills covering parts of June and this
month. They were addressed to him at 371 Lynn Drive.