First Problem for Democratic House Recruits to Solve? Residency

by Nathan L. Gonzales April 25, 2013 · 12:20 PM EDT

House Democrats are promoting a crop of “problem solvers” in their effort to expand the number of competitive districts and win back the majority. But for many of these new recruits, the first problem for them to solve is if, when or where to move into the congressional district they want to run in.

In Colorado’s 6th District, Democrats are ecstatic about former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff’s challenge to GOP Rep. Mike Coffman. Romanoff got off to a strong fundraising start but also had to move from the Cherry Creek area of Denver to Aurora, the population-base (and Coffman’s home) in the district. Coffman defeated Denver attorney Joe Miklosi in 2012. 

In Pennsylvania’s 8th District, Democrats are promoting 33 year-old former Army Ranger Kevin Strouse as a top-tier challenger to Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R) in the Philadelphia suburbs. But Strouse grew up in Delaware County (southwest of Philadelphia), served tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, then lived in Washington, DC while he worked for the CIA until last month when he and his family relocated to Bucks County (northeast of Philadelphia).

Candidates and Members are not constitutionally required to live in their districts, just be residents of their state. But it is striking that so many of the initial top Democratic recruits may have to deal with the issue.

In New York’s 19th District, Democrats are looking to 26 year-old investor Sean Eldridge to defeat GOP Rep. Chris Gibson. Eldridge and his husband, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, recently purchased a home in Shokan (Ulster County), which is about 60 miles from Garrison, in the 18th District where Eldridge apparently thought about running in 2012. The couple also owns a loft in the Soho neighborhood of New York City. 

In California’s 10th District, beekeeper and farmer Michael Eggmann announced his challenge to GOP Rep. Jeff Denham on Wednesday. But while he has a strong connection to Turlock (he grew up there and has managed the family farm’s finances there for the last decade), which is in the district, Eggmann and his family live in Kingsburg, about an hour and a half south of the 10th District. And in Nevada’s 3rd District, Democrat Erin Bilbray Kohn is regarded as all-but-announced against GOP Rep. Joe Heck, but she lives in the 1st District.

Of course, living outside the district doesn’t prohibit victory.

In 2012, Democrat john Delaney defeated Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R, even though he lived less than a mile outside of Maryland’s 6th District, and Democrat John Boccieri was elected in 2008 even though he lived outside of Ohio’s 16th District. Melissa Bean (D) lived 1,400 feet from Illinois’ 8th District when she defeated long-time incumbent Rep. Phil Crane (R) in 2004. In 2010, Republican Morgan Griffith was elected in Virginia’s 9th even though his house was 30 feet from the district line

It’s not only Democratic candidates who may have to deal with the residency issue, some Republican candidates live outside congressional districts too. Grundy County Board Member Chris Balkema is running in Illinois’ 11th District, even though he lives about five and a half miles south in the 16th District. But he is not being touted as a top recruit by GOP strategists. Curtis Bostic, who just lost the GOP runoff to former Gov. Mark Sanford in the special election, lives about 4,500 feet outside of South Carolina’s 1st District.

But unless there is a dramatic wave, a Democratic challenger can’t afford too many missteps in order to knock off a Republican incumbent and it will be up to each of them to make sure residency doesn’t become a key sticking point in a close race.