Here’s a question that couchsurfers and Clark County’s auditor have in common: How many nights have to pass before a person should be considered “living” someplace? The auditor will try to answer that question very soon.
On Thursday, state representative candidate John Ley became the subject of an official challenge that contends he doesn’t actually live in the district he’s trying to represent, Washington’s 18th legislative district.
Vancouver resident Carolyn Crain wrote in the challenge that Ley’s real home is a two-story in Camas — which squarely lands in the state’s 17th legislative district.
Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey confirmed to OPB that a hearing will have to be held. The quasi-judicial process will determine whether or not a living arrangement Ley struck with a family friend qualifies his campaign.
The challenge comes as 10 candidates, Ley included, are jockeying for three open legislative seats in Southwest Washington.
Reached by phone on Friday, Ley confirmed he doesn’t live in the Battle Ground-area home he listed on his voter registration. The home belongs to family friends, he said, to whom he is paying rent for a room.
“As far as I know, everything I did is acceptable according to current law,” Ley said. “As I interpreted them, I could rent a room up there and legally change my voting address if I wanted to.”
The 18th District seat is especially enticing, Ley said, because of a chance to be a decision-maker on replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge. Had Ley campaigned in his district, which also has an open seat, he said it was less likely he could land on the bi-state legislative committee.
The estimated $5 billion project is expected to be one of the largest infrastructure projects in the region’s history. Ley has been a vocal critic of many aspects of the proposal, especially tolling plans.
“It’s a huge waste of taxpayer money,” Ley said. “I looked at the landscape and said, ‘Well, the best opportunity for me to get a voice on the (committee) is by running in the 18th District.’”
Ley declined to elaborate on the rental agreement he struck with his friends, whom he said are snowbirds that split time between Washington and Arizona. Ley said he couldn’t recall the last time he spent a night there.
“I don’t know off the top of my head,” Ley said when asked if he had slept there within the last month.
Washington law requires would-be candidates to be eligible voters for the office they seek. Registering to vote at a new address requires only that a person has lived at the address for 30 days prior to the next election.
Crain, a fellow Republican and a local precinct committee officer, said she was motivated to challenge because of what she described as a dedication to America’s “core structure” of a representative Republic.
“I don’t care what the political party is, whether it’s my party or a different party, I believe the only way we’re going to pull our country back together is to uphold our core principles and our foundation and our Constitutional protections,” Crain said.
This isn’t the first time Crain has challenged candidates. In 2017, she led the residence challenge of then-Port of Vancouver commission candidate Don Orange, who owned a home outside the port district but rented an apartment within the boundaries when he filed. Orange later won the seat.
“The law has weird quirks and loopholes in it which will make some of these challenges difficult to prove,” said Crain, who lives in the 49th District in western Vancouver. “I do think I can win. And I think it’s important that voters start focusing on who is representing them and what their actual level of integrity will be.”
Ley said he is not breaking any rules and is prepared for a formal hearing.