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Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
9:59 PM Fri, Sept. 21st

Editorial: Where can members of Congress live?

The fervor seems to never stop over the people who, we as Americans, have sent to Washington, D.C., to represent us. At a basic level, concerns about exactly where they live continues with each passing election cycle.

Carpetbagging dates back to the Civil War, when anyone from the North who went to the South was perceived to be exploiting the locals for their own purposes.

Reader poll

How do you feel about lawmakers who do not live in the district they represent?

  • I am OK with it, as long as they do the job. 4%
  • No, they need to live among their constituents. 94%
  • I don't care; with the internet, they can live practically anywhere. 2%

882 total votes.

The highest-profile instance we can readily recall involved Hillary Clinton, who left the White House as first lady and headed for a New York residence and the 2000 U.S. Senate election. Throughout the campaign, opponents accused Clinton of carpetbagging because she had never resided in New York State nor had she participated in the state’s politics before the 2000 Senate race. She served as U.S. Senator from New York from 2001 to 2009.

Closer to home, Rick Renzi moved from Virginia to Arizona in 1999 with the sole purpose of running for Congress. While he had previously attended college and lived in Flagstaff for seven years, critics questioned his residency as well.

Several of his children were born in Sierra Vista, and he had homes in Sonoita and Kingman; still, he replied defensively during the campaign: “Let the chips fall where they may if I’m a carpetbagger.” The Daily Courier published that, beginning in 2003, while he represented Arizona’s 1st Congressional District (CD), which includes Prescott, his family lived only in Virginia.

Renzi served from 2003 to 2009 as U.S. Representative. He was indicted in 2008 on 35 counts connected to land deals, and was convicted in 2013 and served most of his three-year sentence prior to being paroled.

Questions also have surfaced several times over the residency of current-Rep. Paul Gosar. He had been a dentist in Flagstaff, which is no longer part of Congressional District 4, but has a residence in Prescott. (CD1 formerly included both Flagstaff and Prescott; the latter of which is now part of CD4.)

However, the latest accusations are focusing on Ann Kirkpatrick, who was the U.S. Representative to CD1 from 2009 to 2011 and again from 2013 to 2017. She replaced Renzi, was ousted by Gosar, and returned to office when Gosar moved to Prescott.

She now wants Rep. Martha McSally's seat (CD2), and a lawsuit was filed earlier this week questioning where she lives, according to her filings. (She merely needs to pick one address.)

The key to all of these is that members of the House of Representatives are not required to live in their district, according to the House website and the Arizona Secretary of State’s office. The Constitution requires that members of the House be at least 25 years old, have been a U.S. citizen for at least seven years, and live in the state they represent (though not necessarily the district).

The rules for serving in the U.S. Senate require members to live in the state they represent. They are not elected by districts, though, and represent the entire state.

For us, this is simple: many of these examples – some good people, some not so good, some effective, some not so effective – may not be carpetbagging, but the practice is questionable and shakes confidence. It is human nature for people to feel connected with others who share and use the same resources, roads and land – and face the same everyday challenges.

We believe that voters will have more respect for those who represent them, if that politician lives among us.

Further, House members may not be required to live in the district, Senators should be clear and don’t have to have a history here either, but good form and ethics dictates full representation and open and honest motives.

For us, it comes down to integrity and character.

Editor's Note - this column has been updated to correct the seat Kirkpatrick is running for, which is McSally's seat in the House of Representatives.