Friday, August 27, 2010

GOP Chief: Jim Dunnam "dishonest" about residence

Munisteri Alleges Waco solon lives in adjoining district

Waco -- Eligibility to represent the people of State
Representative District 57 raised its ugly head yesterday at
a press conference.

The question, so endemic to McLennan County politics, of
where a legislative candidate actually lives and how it
affects eligibility for office
is an on-again, off-again
element to a tragi-comedy of errors in the election season of 2010.

State Republican Chairman Steve Munisteri alleged at a Waco
press conference yesterday that State Representative Jim
Dunnam is not actually eligible to hold his District 57 seat
because he has lived since the redistricting of 2001 in what
was then Representative Kip Averitt's and is now
Representative Doc Anderson's 56th District, which is
entirely within the bounds of McLennan County.

"The fact is that state Rep. Jim Dunnam does not live among
the people of District 57," Mr. Munisteri said. The Waco
Democrat "chooses not to live among the very people he
purports to represent. Even worse, he is dishonest about

After the district was gerrymandered, warped, woofed,
massaged and bowdlerized into a snaky shape that rambles
across McLennan, Falls, Leon, Robertson and Madison
Counties in 2001,Mr. Dunnam built a place in Chilton,
where he takes ahomestead exemption.

He kept his place near McGregor so his kids could continue
to attend school where they started their education.

"My wife and I decided that we weren't going to uproot the
kids," Mr. Dunnam said. "They had spent their whole career
in the same (Midway) public school district. We sat down and
we said we're not going to move our kids and so we were
going to maintain something so they they could go to school
where they'd always gone to school. "There's no hiding
anything about it. Everybody's known about it for a long

When a Republican-dominated legislative committee redrew the
57th District in 2001, a panel of three federal judges
upheld the new shape of things to come. The redistricting
had been accomplished by John Cornyn, who was then Attorney
General, Land Commissioner David Dewhurst and Carole Keeton
Strayhorn, comptroller, who was then named Carole Keeton
Rylander. Mr. Dunnam was one of 27 Democratic incumbents who
got a whole new district following the census of 2000. He
has represented the 57th District since 1996.

The following year, the Republicans took over the
legislature, going from a number in the low seventies to a
majority in the high eighties.

Retired construction executive Marva Beck, who ranches near
Centerville in Leon County, is Mr. Dunnam's opposition in
the general election.

This question of eligibility has figured in another state
legislative contest. Former Senator David Sibley, who had
taken up the practice of lobbying for the state's power
companies, trial lawyers, dentists and insurance companies,
was homesteading a mansion assessed at $750,000 in Austin.

He claimed his legal residence as a property in Waco.

Then he raised legal questions about Senator Brian
Birdwell's legal residency and eligibility to run against
him in the Republican Primary
because Col. Birdwell had
voted in elections in Virginia in 2005 and 2006 while
recuperating from burns he suffered in the 9/11 attack on
the Pentagon. State election code and the Texas Constitution
requires a senatorial candidate to have lived in the state
for a minimum of 5 years.

The Secretary of State ruled at the time that though he was
indeed a registerd voter in Prince William County at
Manassas, it was always Senator Birdwell's clear intention
to return to his native Texas, where he had bought property
at Granbury to build a new home.

When Senator Birdwell won the runoff contest and became the
default Senator to replace Senator Kip Averitt during his
unexpired term, the County Republican Chairmen in the 10-
county Senate District 22 nominated him to stand for the
general election in November.

Challenger John Cullar, a Waco attorney who is the former
McLennan County Democratic Chairman similarly challenged
Sen. Birdwell's eligibilit
y, asking the 5th District Court
of Appeals at Dallas for mandamus relief to have GOP
officials remove Birdwell's name from the ballot.

The justices declined, siding with the same opinion
previously held by the Secretary of State. Mr. Cullum
withdrew his nomination last week, saying he prefers to
allow Democratic candidates to collect campaign
contributions and thereby increase their chances of election
to office.

State Democratic Party officials cried foul, saying the GOP
has "gamed the system,"
that the judicial decision was
unfair and they were robbed, plain and simple.

GOP officials said they plan no litigation on behalf of Ms.
Beck in this contest. They prefer to let the voters make
the decision of who is elibible to fill the slot in
Representative District 57. Mr. Dunnam is the current
House Democratic Leader.

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