GOP Rep. Tom Goodson waves off residency accusations by primary opponent

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Space Coast Rep. Tom Goodson’s Republican primary challenger is accusing him of not living in the district he represents.

Goodson’s campaign — with the support of the state GOP — calls the allegation a “desperate political attacks.”

“Rep. Goodson resides and is a registered voter in House District 50 and has done a great job representing his constituents,” responded Republican Party spokesperson Susan Hepworth in an email exchange with Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida.

Orlando Republican George Collins raised the questions over residency of the two-term incumbent.

Collins points out Goodman’s $65,410 condominium in Titusville he uses as a District 50 address, rather than the four-bedroom, $416,410 waterfront home in Rockledge that he and his wife own. The Rockledge property is what Goodson claims a homestead exemption.

“It sounds a little cozy to be staying at your daughter’s apartment,” Collins, a local tea party member, told the News Service.

Collins, who teaches public speaking courses at Valencia College, is Goodson’s only opponent in the HD 50 primary. The district covers much of northern Brevard and eastern Orange counties. Prior to 2012 reapportionment, it included Brevard County and sections of Indian River County.

Goodson’s daughter and wife jointly own the Titusville property, a 1,210-square-foot, two-bedroom condominium, according to property appraiser records. Goodson voter registration is at the Titusville address.

During redistricting, the 3,699-square-foot Rockledge property was part of District 51, represented by Republican Steve Crisafulli, expected to become House speaker in November after re-election.

Collins’ campaign has monitored the Titusville complex, even asking neighbors about how often Goodson is there.

“I think he didn’t think I’d campaign in Titusville,” said Collins. “And the records are quite clear that the condo is his daughter’s, and the records are quite clear that he changed his voter registration after redistricting. I think he didn’t think this would be an issue.”

Goodson campaign spokesperson Brian Hughes insists the lawmaker properly resides in the community he represents.

“Guidelines for residency are clear,” Hughes told the News Service in an email. “The desperate political attacks of our opponent do not change this fact.”

Florida law requires each legislator be a minimum of 21 years old, and an “elector and resident of the district from which elected” in addition to living in the state for the previous two years.

In a statement on Friday, Collins said he sent a mail piece to 35,000 primary voters — as well as to Goodson’s Titusville condo — highlighting the residency issue.

Residency has been a highly contentious issue in Tallahassee in the past year. Much of the debate surrounds allegations put forth by Senate Ethics and Elections Chair Jack Latvala, accusing Democratic state Sen. Maria Sachs of not living in her district. Sachs, who has continued to deny wrongdoing, defeated Latvala supporter Ellyn Bogdanoff in the bitter 2012 election, with Sachs and Bogdanoff facing each other again this year.

Lawmakers updated residency rules at the beginning of the 2014 legislative session. Under a joint resolution, residency is now determined by through 13 factors, including voter registration address, homestead exemptions and the address on a driver’s licenses. The rules do permit multiple residences, but only one considered the legal residence.

Each lawmaker will be required to file paperwork after every election confirming he or she lives in the correct district.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.