ROCKLAND, Maine — The Democratic candidate for a local Maine House seat said there should be a formal investigation into the residency of her opponent, a Republican who acknowledges he lives in a neighboring district.
Elizabeth Dickerson of Rockland responded Wednesday to a request for a comment on the acknowledgement by Republican Gordon Mank Jr. that he has lived at the Hospitality House in Rockport since 1999, including during the time that he circulated and filed nomination papers for the Maine House District 47 seat that represents Rockland and part of Owls Head.
Mank and his wife have operated the homeless shelter for 13 years.
“I’m not sure why there is no formal investigation,” Dickerson said. “I find that troubling.”
She said it would be wrong if she found a house in Union and moved her family but continued to try to campaign for a Rockland/Owls Head seat.
“Why haven’t we heard from our Constitutional officers?” Dickerson asked.
The Maine Constitution states: “No person may be a candidate for election as a member of the House of Representatives unless, at the time of the nomination for placement on a primary, general or special election ballot, that person is a resident in the district which the candidate seeks to represent.”
State law defines residency as the residence of a person where “the person has established a fixed and principal home to which the person, whenever temporarily absent, intends to return.”
Megan Sanborn, the communications director for the Maine secretary of state’s office, said Tuesday that the secretary of state had no authority to act since the deadline for filing a challenge to Manks’ nomination papers was five business days after they were filed, which would have been in the spring.
“They’re not doing their job,” Dickerson said of both the attorney general and secretary of state.
A telephone message was left Wednesday afternoon with Brenda Kielty, spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office. Kielty said later in the afternoon that she has referred the question to people in the department.
Dickerson said she has been ignoring the issue of Mank’s residency to focus on her campaign and the issues affecting citizens in House District 47.
Mank declined an interview with The Courier-Gazette newspaper in Rockland during the primary, a race he won by two votes over fellow Republican and former Rockland Mayor James Raye.
Mank told the Bangor Daily News on Monday evening he may not participate in any debates if ones are scheduled. He said he was fed up with questions about his residency and would not answer any more queries about the matter.
He said he would not drop out of the race.
The Maine Republican Party issued a statement on the matter Wednesday afternoon.
“Here are the facts. Gordon Mank has owned 81 Grace Street in Rockland, within District 47, since 2005. His residency has been unit B in that building ever since. He has been operating Mid-Coast Hospitality House, a homeless shelter, in neighboring Rockport, spending many nights there,” stated David Sorensen, Communications Director for the Maine Republican Party.
“Mr. Mank has selflessly dedicated himself to the homeless shelter in Rockport for many years,” Sorensen continued. “All along, he has maintained a residence in District 47. His candidacy is valid, and these desperate attempts by Democrats to knock a Republican out of the race by using Mank’s public service against him are disgraceful.”
Mank told the BDN on Monday that he has been renting apartment B to another person since before he was a candidate. He asked the person to leave this summer and the apartment is now vacant.
Mank said he still considers Rockland his residence even while living in Rockport. He said he has owned a three-unit apartment building in Rockland since December 2005, pays property taxes in Rockland, and has voted in Rockland since November 2006. He also said that he grew up in Rockland and went to schools in the city. Mank also pointed out that he and his wife purchased a single-family home on Orchard Street in Rockland on Aug. 31.