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State Senate Candidate Refutes Residency Violation Claims

polling-place.jpg
Jeff Young
/
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
West Virginia's primary election is May 10th.

A claim that a state Senate candidate did not meet residency requirements and should not be on the ballot made its way to a Kanawha County courtroom Tuesday.

A complaint filed by Kanawha County registered voter Alicia Stine claims Republican Senate District 8 primary candidate Andrea Kiessling violated the West Virginia requirement that candidates must live in the state five years prior to their election.

District 8 includes Roane and Clay counties, and parts of Kanawha, Putman and Jackson.

The residency charge was first raised last week on Twitter by a District 8 opponent, former Republican state Delegate Joshua Higginbotham.

In a virtual hearing, Kiessling testified her family moved to Charlotte, North Carolina in 2012 for a better business opportunity for her family. Attorney Anthony Majestro asked Kiessling about her home and car purchases, business dealings and tax returns. She told Majestro she filed state and federal tax returns form 2012 until 2020 in North Carolina.

Kiessling testified that North Carolina was never a permanent home, she had dual residency and she was always laying the groundwork to return to central West Virginia, which she did in 2020.

“We always planned to move back and return to West Virginia,” Kiessling testified. “That was always the intention. My husband and I saw North Carolina in our business opportunities there as a means to an end. We needed to put things in place in order to be able to return to West Virginia, which was always always the plan.”

She also testified that she voted in North Carolina during those years, unaware that only a state resident can legally vote.

“I didn't necessarily have that thought attached to why and when I voted. I voted because I wanted to vote,’ Kiessling said.

In a separate interview conducted after the hearing, Kiessling told West Virginia Public Broadcasting her intentions and actions while in North Carolina exhibited dual state residency.

“I took my pet to the vet, my local vet, in West Virginia, I continued to go to my dentist, and my children saw doctors in West Virginia,” Kiessling said. “I'm a shareholder at local businesses in West Virginia, I was very much involved in my family's business. The list goes on. I remained a member of my church, all during the time I was in North Carolina. So I very much remained very well connected to West Virginia, and again, split my time between the states where I was running and operating businesses in and West Virginia.”

Kiesslnig said she and her campaign team knew the residency requirements before she decided to run for office, and felt any problems with driver licenses or voter registration were technicalities

“When I moved to North Carolina in 2012, for the businesses that we were pursuingI had to update my driver's license,” Kiessling said. “And therefore my voter registration which was attached to the updating of my driver's license, since that point in 2012. I have not updated my driver's license or therefore my voter registration. I am a busy mom.”

Kanawha County Circuit Judge Duke Bloom asked for briefs of conclusions and relief from both parties - and from the Secretary of State’s office. He’s expected to make a ruling by the end of the week.

Government Reporter, ryohe@wvpublic.org, 304-634-8123

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