Indiana Republican, Sen. Dick Lugar, who is facing attacks from both Democrats and internal opponents to the right in a Republican primary, has been dealing with a tricky political issue: that he lives mainly in northern Virginia, in the Washington suburbs.
The issue was first reported a week and a half ago by the Daily Caller — noting that Lugar actually sold his home way back in 1977, but continues to use the same location as his legal voting address.
Lugar campaign spokesman David Willkie has now explained the issue to the local CBS affiliate in Indianapolis. “It’s just like the United States military,” said Willkie. “If you’re military personnel and in defense of this country, in service to this country and you’re overseas you keep your last place of residence.”
That is in fact an accurate legal comparison based on the Indiana Constitution. But we asked Willkie, is it fair to compare a politician’s time in Washington area to that of active-duty military personnel?
“I don’t mean compare apples to a fruit-basket here,” said Willkie. “What I said here is, from a legal standpoint here, under the law — residency — yes. Are the two comparable in other ways? No, of course not, and I wouldn’t make those assertions. But Dick Lugar has served in the United States military. He served in the Navy. And during that time period, his residency fell under the same law it does now.”
“The law is very clear there,” Willkie also said. “If you are in service of the state or the federal government, one keeps their last place of residency. So it applies to state officials. Military personnel is just the largest group. It applies to Members of Congress, it applies to Congressional staff, it applies to foreign service. There are just a whole host of people it applies to.”
Willkie further explained that when Lugar first began his Senate service, he made sure to directly seek the official opinion of then state Attorney General Linley Pearson (R) — which has been reaffirmed by the current one, fellow Republican Greg Zoeller — so that his family could move with him to Washington.
“Wealthy senators have two houses,” said Willkie. “People that aren’t wealthy only have one. Dick Lugar is like a regular Hoosier, he has one house.”
TPM asked Willkie whether this was similar to the litigation involving Rahm Emanuel in the 2011 Chicago Mayor’s race. Following a legal challenge against his eligibility, the state Supreme Court declared unanimously that Emanuel had not lost his Chicago residency when he left his home there for Washington, to serve the country as White House Chief of Staff.
When asked about that comparison, Willkie said that Lugar was more prudent than Emanuel, and sought full legal clearance beforehand, rather than have to litigate the matter later.