Martin to be seated in Assembly after all

CARSON CITY – Although a judge ruled that newly elected District 9 Assemblyman Andrew Martin does not live in his Las Vegas district, the Democrat will take his seat on Feb. 4 without any further challenges from Republicans.

Kelly Hurst, the Republican candidate for the seat, said Wednesday that he does not have the money, estimated at $50,000, to conduct any more challenges to Martin’s residency.

Even if he did challenge Martin’s residency – and victory on Nov. 6 – Hurst said he still would lose because the challenge would be heard in the Assembly where Democrats have a 27-15 advantage. The deadline for such challenges already has passed.

The day before the general election, District Judge Rob Bare, in response to a complaint filed by Hurst, ruled that Martin’s candidacy was invalid because he did not live in the district. But because the judge did not issue a written decision that quickly, election workers could not post signs that Martin could not run.

Martin had bought a condominium in District 9 in December, but the judge ruled largely on photographic evidence from Hurst’s investigators that he still was living in a larger home just outside the district. Photos showed Martin recharging his electric car in the larger home. Hurst said he spent $30,000 in campaign funds on the investigation.

Martin won the election by nearly 1,300 votes in the heavily Democratic district. While state law says candidates who live outside the district cannot serve if they win, the state Nevada Constitution gives each house of the Legislature the power to determine qualifications of its members, including judging election contests.

“The jury pool was not in our favor, 27-15,” said Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, in a Wednesday interview.

Martin, aware that the state constitution would allow the Democratic-majority Assembly to hear an election challenge, told a reporter Friday that he would not appeal Bare’s decision.

Still Hurst, a real estate investor, said he considers it wrong for Martin to serve as a representative for a district where he does not live. He said residents should be upset and Martin should resign.

But he does not expect that will happen.

“Maybe I will run again, run for a district up there in Northern Nevada since it doesn’t matter where you live,” Hurst said. “Someone from California could serve in the Assembly in Nevada.”

Under rules of the Legislature, Hurst said he would have had to pay all costs of the Assembly hearing his challenge of Martin’s residency, and that could have cost him $50,000.

Because of the Martin controversy, Hickey said he and Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, will co-sponsor a bill that clarifies residency requirements, including whether a judge’s decision or the constitutional requirement to allow legislators to judge their fellow members applies in such cases.

Even if Martin is thrown out of office, the new legislator would have to be a Democrat. The appointment would be made by the Clark County Commission.

Although several legislators over the years have lived outside their districts, Martin is the first legislator ever to have lost a court decision over where he lives.

Election challenges have occasionally been heard in the opening days of legislative session. But the challenges generally have occurred in close elections where the losing candidates charged that voting irregularities cost him the election.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@ or 775-687-3901.

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