ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision Tuesday and ruled that a candidate for the House of Delegates, who lived with his girlfriend while campaigning, was a legal resident of their Montgomery County district.
The court, voting 5-2, held that Anthony Roberts of Silver Spring was eligible to run for the 1994 Republican nomination to District 14A. The ruling shuts the door on any attempt by Steven Lakin, another candidate, to call for a new election.
Lakin had filed a lawsuit in August 1994 to block Roberts from running, alleging that Roberts did not live in the district. A month later, Circuit Judge J. James McKenna ordered the State Board of Elections and the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors to remove Roberts’ name from the ballot.
Roberts and his attorneys immediately appealed to the Court of Special Appeals, which blocked the judge’s order to remove Roberts’ name.
Lakin came in second in the Republican primary to Del. Patricia Faulkner, who won by a mere 78 votes. While Roberts came in last, the 100 votes he pulled could have changed the primary’s outcome, Judge John C. Eldridge noted in writing for the Court of Appeals’ majority.
Torin Andrews, Lakin’s lead attorney, commented that “if they had decided that [Roberts’ name] should have been off, then we may have had to have a new election. The Court of Appeals doesn’t want to get into the business of overturning elections.”
The residency issue turned on Roberts’ move in January 1993 into his girlfriend’s home on Pamela Drive in Spencerville, in District 14A. At the same time, he maintained his previous residence on Colgate Way in Silver Spring, in the 20th district.
Roberts told the trial court he kept the second address because his girlfriend’s daughter had pets to which he was allergic.
But the court found it significant that “Roberts changed his voter registration to reflect his move to Pamela Drive” prior to May 8, 1994 — longer than six months before the election, the residency threshold specified in the Maryland Constitution.
The court also cited Roberts’ trial testimony that “he had his own set of keys to his girlfriend’s house, knew the combination to the alarm system, kept some of his clothing there, and cut the grass.”
In addition, Roberts changed his mailing address to Pamela Drive and his church membership to one in District 14A, factors that led the court to rule that Roberts’ intent was to “reside” in 14A.
Roberts moved to a third address — an apartment on Blackburn Lane, still in District 14A — in September 1994, according to the record in his trial. -30-