Lawsuit challenges West Anchorage legislative candidate's residency

Oct. 29—Four West Anchorage residents filed a lawsuit Friday, arguing that a legislative candidate is constitutionally barred from holding office because she was not a state resident for three years before filing to run.

Democrat Jennie Armstrong is making her first run for the state House. She is in a two-way race against former legislator Liz Vazquez, a Republican.

The state constitution requires that candidates have been a resident of the state for three years before filing for office.

Earlier in the month, the political website Alaska Landmine published a story questioning Armstrong's residency. Using her Instagram posts and fishing license, writer Jeff Landfield said it appeared that Armstrong had moved to Alaska in June of 2019, which would be within three years of filing for office.

State statute says that residency is determined by an "act of removal" combined with "the intent to remain" in Alaska. Friday's lawsuit challenged Armstrong's moving dates and her use of a Louisiana address on a nonresident fishing license soon after she had moved to Alaska.

Armstrong told the Alaska Beacon last week that she became an Alaska resident in May of 2019 and she filed for office June 1 of 2022. She provided a picture of a plane ticket to Alaska on May 10 that year.

"I have lived in Alaska since May of 2019, and there is nowhere else I have lived or called home since then, a fact that is well-documented," she said.


Armstrong was not available for comment Friday. Her campaign manager Arielle Wiggin said that she was confident her client would prevail in court.

"Sadly, the timing of this lawsuit makes clear that it is intended to confuse voters and disrupt the Armstrong campaign," Wiggin said through a prepared statement. "It won't work."

Political observers say Armstrong is well placed to win in November. She finished first in August with 53% of the primary vote ahead of Vazquez on 34%.

The four West Anchorage residents challenging Armstrong's residency are registered Republicans who have donated to Vazquez. Their complaint asks the Anchorage Superior Court to rule on an expedited basis before the election is set to be certified Nov. 29.

"If she's ineligible, then they can't certify the election," said Stacey Stone, attorney for the three complainants.

Stone cited Rep. David Eastman's eligibility case and an Anchorage judge's decision to delay certification of that House race until after his December trial. She said by phone that a decision after the Nov. 8 general election would likely be "a more permissible timeline for the court."

Assuming that Armstrong wins election but is found ineligible to hold office, the complaint said that the division could retabulate the ranked-choice voting results and award the seat to Vazquez. That follows a model described in election director Gail Fenumiai's testimony in the Eastman case.

The Department of Law had not been served with an official copy of the suit by Friday afternoon and could not comment on the specific allegations being made. Spokesperson Patty Sullivan said Armstrong's candidacy had been certified based on the information provided and she noted the deadline to challenge a candidate's residency passed June 11.

"There is no process for the Division to find a candidate disqualified based on residency at this point in the process," Sullivan said. Adding: "The next opportunity to challenge the candidate's residency qualifications would be in an election contest."