Alaska Supreme Court: Anchorage Democrat Qualified for House Seat

A divided Alaska Supreme Court ruled Friday that an Anchorage Democrat who won a state House race was a qualified candidate.

Earlier this week, Superior Court Judge Herman Walker Jr. issued a decision finding Democrat Jennifer “Jennie” Armstrong met the residency requirements and accepted the November election results. Her decision was appealed by Republican Liz Vázquez, who lost to Armstrong, and four others who joined her in challenging Armstrong’s victory.

A brief order from the state Supreme Court, shortly after hearing arguments in the case on Friday, stated simply: “We affirm the final finding of the superior court that Ms. Armstrong was a qualified candidate as required by law. A full decision will follow.”

Three justices heard the case: Chief Justice Daniel Winfree and Justices Jennifer Henderson and Susan Carney. Carney dissented, writing that she would reverse Walker’s conclusion that Armstrong was qualified.

Vázquez’s lawsuit alleged that Armstrong had not been a resident of Alaska for at least three years immediately prior to running for office and that Armstrong was therefore not qualified for office.

Under the state constitution, to serve in the legislature one must be a “qualified voter who has been a resident of Alaska for at least three years and of the district in which he was elected for at least one year immediately preceding his run for office.” ”. The submission deadline was June 1.

Vázquez’s attorneys and the other plaintiffs in court documents said evidence supported the claim that Armstrong’s residency did not begin until at least June 8, 2019. Vázquez’s attorney, Stacey Stone, made similar arguments Friday.

The lawsuit targeted things like a social media post, fishing license applications and the date Armstrong registered to vote.

“While Armstrong may subjectively believe that he became an Alaska resident when he ‘showed up, bowed, and decided’ on May 20, 2019, the factual evidence says otherwise,” Stone and plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote in the lawsuit. court. documents.

Armstrong said she moved to Alaska on May 20, 2019. She said that’s when she and her now-husband had an argument and decided she would move with him to Anchorage. She testified that her social media posts were not always contemporaneous and that a 2022 fishing license application that traced her residence to May 2019 was more accurate than previous applications.

Walker, in his ruling, said he discovered that Armstrong became a resident on May 20, 2019, based on evidence provided to him. He said state law allows a resident to temporarily leave Alaska and maintain their residence as long as they intend to return. He said Armstrong left for previous commitments on May 20, 2019, and returned on June 8, 2019.

He said he discovered that her absence as of May 20, 2019, was temporary and that she “maintained her intention to return while she was away.”