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A month before she kicked off her campaign for Rhode Island governor, Ashley Kalus declared her Newport residence a "second home" in a mortgage document.
Kalus and husband Jeffrey Weinzweig took out a mortgage in February on the house they bought in Newport, a month after she registered to vote in Rhode Island at that address, according to mortgage records filed with the Newport City Clerk's office. She formally kicked off her campaign for governor March 22.
The mortgage includes a "second-home rider," first reported by WPRI-TV, and lists Kalus and Weinzweig's permanent address as Highland Park, Illinois. They sold their Illinois house earlier this month.
Why did Kalus designate the Newport house as a second home after having sworn that she lived there full-time on her RI voter registration?
Kalus spokesman Matt Hanrahan gave this explanation on Friday:
“It’s called a second home rider because Ashley and Jeff already had a mortgage on their Chicago home, which has been sold, and now both Jeff and Ashley’s primary residence is Newport.
"Jeff was in Chicago winding down his practice, while Ashley was on the front lines in Rhode Island during the pandemic, where her company conducted over 423,000 [COVID] tests and delivered over 33,000 vaccines."
"If this is the best that Dan McKee has, he should pack his bags and head to his second home in Florida. Instead of cheap political pot-shots," Hanrahan said.
"Dan McKee should thank Ashley, and the nearly 400 employees that worked for her, for the sacrifices they made during the pandemic to save lives, get kids back to school and parents back to work.”
The state's COVID testing and vaccination contract with Doctors Test Center to which she referred did not end well. The two sides landed in mediation. The R.I. Department of Health reported the DTC-run test sites elicited more than 100 complaints.
KAlus reported $500,001-to-$1 million in income from Doctors Test Centers last year, on her financial disclosure filing with the R.I. Ethics Commission.
What is a second-home rider?
In signing a second-home rider, the owner typically agrees to use the property themselves and not rent it out as part of a time-share or rental pool. In exchange, they usually receive a lower interest rate on their mortgage than they would if they were to use it as an investment rental property.
Gov. Dan McKee's campaign has been attacking Kalus all week for lacking the long connection to Rhode Island he has and for not being "from here."
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"The discovery of these documents raises critically important questions for voters," McKee spokeswoman Alana O'Hare wrote in an email.
"Rhode Islanders must ask themselves why Ashley Kalus is running for governor in a state that she won't claim as her primary residence and won't even commit to making her home, past this election. The bottom line – you can't lead a state you don't know, and Ashley Kalus doesn't know Rhode Island."
Kalus and Weinzweig bought the 1,775-square-foot house on Narragansett Avenue in Newport in May 2021 for $770,000 when she moved to the state to run the COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites. At the time, both were registered to vote in Florida, where they own two houses, and Weinzweig was still living and working in Illinois.
In mid-January, with the state COVID contract nearing an end, Kalus registered to vote in Rhode Island, then opened a campaign account to run for governor on Feb. 7 and took out a $615,000 mortgage on the Newport house in late February.
The mortgage followed a campaign financing snafu on Feb.11, that required Kalus to reimburse her husband - who was limited to a $1,000 donation - the $500,000 he "loaned" her campaign.
"Are we seriously talking about a rider right now?" the Kalus campaign tweeted on Thursday. "For a house that was sold? Rhode Islanders are getting crushed, and Dan McKee has no plan to lead us forward. Look, a flying squirrel!"
Kalus and Weinzweig maintained a primary residence "homestead exemption" on their house in Highland Park before they sold it earlier this month. The $6,000 exemption reduced their annual property taxes by $515.
Federal tax law also includes benefits for capital gains realized on a primary residence, but it is unclear if Kalus took advantage of those.
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The campaign tweeted: "Follow along everyone … 1) Ashley moved to Newport 2) They sold their Chicago house 3) Jeff’s selling his Chicago practice and commercial building 4) They moved back to Rhode Island to raise their family."
Florida properties weather Hurricane Ian
As for their two houses in the Florida Keys, the properties appear to have escaped the worst of the damage caused by Hurricane Ian.
"Any damage to my property in Florida is nothing compared to those who experienced a direct hit in places like Fort Myers and Naples," Kalus said in an email. "My thoughts are with those who lost their lives, homes and livelihoods in the wake of this tragic storm. I applaud the heroic efforts of first responders who continue to put themselves at risk to help others in this trying time."
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As it happens, McKee also owns property in Florida, in his case a condominium in Stuart, on the East Coast between Palm Beach and Cape Canaveral.
"Yes. We are East Coast. West Coast was the problem," McKee said Thursday after an unrelated news conference when asked if his property had come through the storm unscathed.
On Twitter: @PatrickAnderso_
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This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Ashley Kalus' running for gov.: RI residence listed as a 'second home'