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Dems Challenge Romney on Residence

June 8, 2002 GMT

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BOSTON (AP) _ Citing property and tax documents, state Democratic officials have filed a legal challenge to Republican Mitt Romney’s gubernatorial candidacy, contending he has not lived in Massachusetts long enough to be eligible.

Romney lived in Utah from 1999 until this year while directing the Salt Lake City Olympics. He filed Massachusetts income tax forms as a nonresident in 1999 and 2000, and amended the forms to ``resident″ in April after returning to Massachusetts and deciding to run for governor.

The Massachusetts Constitution requires a candidate to live in the state for seven consecutive years before running for governor.

``What we have here is Mr. Romney attempting to rewrite history after the fact,″ said James Roosevelt, the state Democratic party’s chief legal counsel. ``All the documents indicate he was domiciled in Utah.″

Romney said Democrats were trying to block his candidacy on a technicality. Romney has maintained a home and raised a family in the Boston suburb of Belmont for 30 years, and he says tax status does not define one’s residency.

``It’s sad that the campaign is going to be diverted on matters that are insignificant,″ Romney said. ``Any effort to try to ruin me, by hook or by crook and by legal machinations, is going to end up failing.″

The challenge was filed Friday with the state Ballot Law Commission. After Romney’s campaign responds, the commission will schedule a hearing and could decide the issue later this month, Roosevelt said.

The commission has one Democrat, one unenrolled member, and three Republicans, including two appointed this week by Republican acting Gov. Jane Swift.

The challenge cites the property tax discount Romney received on his Park City, Utah, home in 1999 and 2000 that is reserved for Utah residents; the income tax filings for the same years in which Romney filed as a Utah resident; the fact that Romney lived and worked full time in Utah; and his Utah driver’s license.

Barbara Kresser, the assessor in Summit County, Utah, has said county officials erred in giving Romney the property tax discount.

Also Friday, the campaign for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Robert Reich said he met the seven-year residency requirement.

Reich worked in Washington while serving as Labor Secretary under President Clinton. He filed state taxes as a nonresident in 1994 and owned a house in Washington.

Reich returned to resident status on Aug. 1, 1995, when his family moved to Massachusetts, and he commuted to Washington, returning home on weekends, spokeswoman Dorie Clark said.