While the New York papers are talking about Congressman Charles Rangel's rent controlled apartments voters in Florida are talking about how Democrat Tim Mahoney, the man who replaced Mark Foley, claims to be living in a barn.
Additionally, Mahoney has a homestead exemption on a house in Palm Beach Gardens and describes it as his primary residence. But the address on Mahoney's voter registration is a barn with a small apartment that he owns in the rural Caloosa area west of Palm Beach Gardens. The barn is in the 16th Congressional District that Mahoney represents; the homesteaded house is just outside Mahoney's district, the Palm Beach newspaper reported.
Mahoney is the second local congressman to come under fire over his residency in recent months. In July, Democratic U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler was criticized for owning a house in Maryland while declaring Florida residency at his in-laws' house west of Delray Beach. While maintaining he did nothing wrong, Wexler rented an apartment west of Boca Raton to quell the uproar.
"(W)e don't know how he can declare his legal residence in the homesteaded address and also declare legal residence at the barn for voting purposes," Florida Department of State spokeswoman Jennifer Krell Davis said today.
The Department of State oversees the state Division of Elections, but neither entity has the jurisdiction to enforce elections law. Allegations of criminal elections violations can be investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement or local state attorneys for potential prosecution. Civil complaints are handled by the Florida Elections Commission.
While Mahoney's office and the Department of State have traded statutory citations on residency this week, the issue is more than a dry legal question. The race between freshman Mahoney and Republican challenger Tom Rooney is expected to be one of the most competitive congressional contests in the nation this year.