A third of the candidates vying for a U.S. House seat representing North Texas do not live in the district, according to a Fort Worth Star-Telegram review of campaign filings and public records.
The race to fill the seat previously held by the late U.S. Rep. Ron Wright, an Arlington Republican, has drawn 23 candidates, a list that includes 11 Republicans, 10 Democrats, a Libertarian and an independent.
Candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives are not required to live in the district they’re seeking to represent. They must be at least 25 a U.S. citizen and live in the state in which they’re running.
“I think everyone understands that if you live reasonably close to a district, that that’s not as big of an issue as if you don’t,” said Jim Riddlesperger, a TCU political science professor. “But obviously it’s helpful, all things being equal, for someone to be a resident of the district they represent.”
Congressional District 6 spans southeast Tarrant County, including most of Arlington and Mansfield, and all of Ellis and Navarro counties.
Early voting starts April 19 for the May 1 special election, which was called after Wright died in February.
Candidates who do not appear to live in the district based on public records include four Democrats (Matt Hinterlong, Shawn Lassiter, Jana Lynne Sanchez and Brian Stephenson), three Republicans (Mike Egan, Michael Wood and Jenny Garcia Sharon) and one Libertarian (Phil Gray).
Hinterlong owns a house in Navarro county, he said during a recent candidate forum, but lives in Dallas where he plans to keep residing so his children can attend school there. Hinterlong went to grade school and high school in Arlington.
Lassiter, who has worked as a public school teacher and administrator in Fort Worth, said she lives a little bit outside of District 6 but has lived in Fort Worth for nearly a decade and has worked across the district.
“I have always served District 6,” she said during the forum. “It’s been where I spent most of my time.”
Stephenson lives in Houston, but said he has family near Arlington and lived in Waxahachie for a few months to attend trucking school.
“Yes I’m representing the district but whatever policies get enacted go for the entire U.S.,” he said, noting that he understands issues impacting both rural and urban areas.
Sanchez, who ran for the district in 2018, said she is from Waxahachie and has previously lived in Congressional District 6. She has been living in Fort Worth outside of the district since October as construction wraps up on a house she is building in Crowley. Her new home will fall within the district, she said.
”I am from this district,” she said. “This district is … my community, it’s my family, it’s my home.”
Public records show Egan living outside the district in Collin County, but he told the Star-Telegram that he’s building a home in Navarro County.
“I think that what’s important to Texans is not necessarily a randomly drawn political line, but more importantly what a candidate is going to do for them,” Egan said. “And for me, what I think the folks I’ve talked to really very badly want is to have their values reflected in Washington.”
Sharon lives outside the district in Spicewood, according to Federal Election Commission records. Requests for comment sent to a campaign email were not returned. Gray lives in Tyler, but said he would move to the district were he elected.
Michael Wood resides outside of the district’s boundaries in Fort Worth, but his business, Advanced Maintenance of Fort Worth, operates in the district.
“I feel like my business has given me experience and ties all over the Fort Worth area, especially in Tarrant County,” Wood said.
One candidate has drawn national attention related to his Texas ties: Former professional wrestler Dan Rodimer, who ran for Congress in Nevada in the November general election. According to CNN and other news reports, Rodimer is originally from New Jersey. He’s drawn criticism for putting on a cowboy persona in an ad that shows him bull riding.
“I moved my family of seven back to Texas because I want to raise my kids in a constitutional friendly state,” Rodimer says in the ad.
His campaign website stresses his Texas ties, noting that he has lived in Houston, owned a house in Galveston and “has always thought of Texas as his true home.”
“I live in beautiful Mansfield and the people of this city know me well,” Rodimer said in a statement, when asked about his residency. “My children go to school here and I’ve been out in the district talking with voters daily and working to make sure I represent their issues during these national conversations I’m having.”
Rodimer didn’t note when he moved to Mansfield.
Others running for the seat include Brian Harrison and Sery Kim, who were both officials in the Trump administration.
Property records show that Harrison, who went to middle and high school in the district, has a home in Ellis County. He did live in the Washington, D.C., area while working for the Trump administration, but he kept the property and returned after President Joe Biden took office, he said.
“I have considered this area home for many decades,” Harrison said, later adding that he left his home to “go and do all the things conservative Republicans talk about doing.”
Kim lives within the district in Arlington, where she moved in February. Kim said she has lived in other parts of Dallas-Fort Worth.
“My connection to the district is that when my parents immigrated here from Seoul, South Korea, they actually cleaned toilets, emptied trash cans in Arlington, Texas,” Kim said.
Chris Suprun, a Republican, signed a lease in the district soon after filing his candidacy paperwork, according to his campaign.
Other candidates who live in the district, based on public records, include Republican Susan Wright, the wife of Ron, Republican state Rep. Jake Ellzey and Democrat Lydia Bean.
“This isn’t D.C. or Nevada, this is North Texas, and Texans deserve to be represented by someone who’s lived and worked with them, not someone moving in before the filing deadline,” Wright said in a statement.
Voters in cities where district boundaries tend to intersect cities and even neighborhoods are likely to be more forgiving of a candidate living near a congressional district but not in it, Riddlesperger said. A candidate’s residency will likely matter more to voters in cities and counties whose entire community is within district boundaries.
“But District 6, obviously, is such a rambling district and it represents kind of urban areas and rural areas and areas in between,” Riddlesperger said.
The district’s boundaries are likely to change after lawmakers in Austin work through the redistricting process. Fast-growing Dallas-Fort Worth is expected to gain at least one congressional seat, meaning that all of the districts in the area could be reconfigured, Riddlesperger said. He wouldn’t be surprised if Congressional District 6 is carved up.
“It’s possible that someone who doesn’t live in District 6 now would live in District 6 next time or vice versa,” Riddlesperger said.