Fourth District Democratic Congressional candidate Josh Zeitz is challenging U.S. Rep. Chris Smith’s right to vote in his own election, and maybe even his right to be a candidate.
The Zeitz campaign today sent a letter to Mercer County Superintendent of Elections Bettye Monroe, asking that Smith’s voter registration be revoked because of his alleged Virginia residency.
At issue is controversy surrounding Smith’s daughter’s college tuition. She pays in-state tuition at a public university in Virginia, where Smith’s family resides. Zeitz says the law states that only legal Virginia residents can do that, and that parents who co-sign the application for the tuition break must have “abandoned any previous domicile.”
“We request an explanation of how Chris Smith may vote in New Jersey after having ‘abandoned’ New Jersey as a domicile. Smith's voluntary application for Virginia in-state educational benefits demonstrates his choice that Virginia, not New Jersey, is his domicile. Smith cannot be a registered voter in New Jersey and a Virginia domicile at the same time, particularly as Virginia requires that its domiciles "intend to remain indefinitely,” wrote Zeitz Campaign Manager Steve D’Amico.
Earlier this week, Smith acknowledged that his daughter pays in-state tuition In Virginia, where Smith’s family has resided since the early 1980s. That saves her $20,000 per year. Smith, however, argues that he considers the apartment he rents in Hamilton his home, and that he votes here and has a New Jersey driver’s license.
Smith’s campaign responded that Smith’s daughter is an in-state resident, and that the application was co-filed by Smith’s wife, Marie, who works in Virginia as a non-resident, and pays taxes in both Virginia and New Jersey.
In an April PolitickerNJ.com story about Smith’s residency, the Congressman would not say whether his daughter paid in-state tuition, since he never discussed his family.
Smith Campaign Manager Martin Gillespie scoffed at the letter, offering a short retort.
"The Zeitz campaign has imploded. This most recent desperate Zeitz dirty trick is baseless, reckless, pathetic and dishonorable."
Although congressional candidates in New Jersey are not required to live in the district they’re running in to be on the ballot, they are required to live in New Jersey by election day. D’Amico hinted that, if this challenge is successful, there could be further legal action.
“We may be pursuing other legal options. We’re exploring what those options are,” he said.
D’Amico said that Smith’s best case scenario is that his family is receiving a tuition break he’s not entitled to.
"The alternative scenario, of course, is that he has domiciled in Virginia and is eligible for in-state tuition at UVA, but that would mean he has ‘abandoned’ New Jersey and has no legal right to vote in New Jersey or represent its citizens in Congress. Our request to the Superintendent is aimed at discovering the truth,” he said.
Reached for comment, Bettye Monroe, the elections superintendent, said she heard the letter was coming but had not yet received it. She said to check back tomorrow for a response.