Senator David Bradley (D-Tucson) from Legislative District 10 is one of the most respected elected leaders from Tucson, and recognized as an advocate for child welfare. Sen. Bradley defeated the widely despised Frank “don’t make me angry” Antenori (R-Not Tucson) in 2012, to everyone’s great relief (even Republican lobbyists have said so).
This year, Sen. Bradley faces a mystery Republican opponent, Mark Edwin Morrison, newly arrived in Arizona.
In doing opposition research on this candidate, I discovered that Mr. Morrison has not lived in Arizona and Pima County long enough to meet the residency requirements to run for political office.
Arizona’s constitutional residency requirement for a state legislator is: an Arizona resident for 3 years, and a resident of the County from which elected for 1 year. Article 4, Part 2 Section 2 of the Arizona Constitution. “Residency” under Arizona election law is defined as physical presence with an intent to remain. A.R.S. §16-311 (A) provides in relevant part that “A candidate for public office shall be a qualified elector at the time of filing and shall reside in the county, district or precinct that the person proposes to represent.”
Mr. Morrison obtained an Arizona Driver’s license and registered to vote (motor-voter) on the same date, July 26, 2011. According to the Department of Motor Vehicles report obtained (redacted copy), the address provided was 577 N. Arizona Estates Loop, Tucson AZ 85748. No additional Arizona license for Mr. Morrison is on record, and his previous driver’s license was from the state of Maryland.
A cursory review would lead one to believe that Mr. Morrison meets the constitutional requirements for residency to run for the state legislature. But I decided to check the Pima County Assessor records online to verify his property address and date of purchase. See www.asr.pima.gov (advanced search).
According to the Pima County Assessor’s records, this property was assessed as “vacant/ag/golf” property for 2014. The assessor classification for 2015 changes to “res/other.” Whaaa?
Checking the “parcel history” for this property, the Assessor Records show the “Morrison Family Tr” (Attn: Mark E. Morrison) recorded a warranty deed for a single family residence on December 13, 2013. The “plan” for the residence is dated 10/2013. The Assessor Records show an “appraisal date on November 22, 2013. A single family residence fee was recorded by OT Builders LLC on May 14, 2013.
Additionally, the City of Tucson Planning & Development Services Department records online show a permit for a “single family new” residence entered on May 1, 2013, and an inspection record completed between July 5, 2013 and a final inspection on December 4, 2013. See www.tucsonaz.gov/pro.
The Assessor’s records show the property was previously owned by the “McMahon Family Tr” (Attn: Catherine C. McMahon), with a warranty deed recorded on July 11, 2008. The property was previously in the name of Mark McMahon, with a warranty deed recorded on August 7, 2003. McMahon purchased the property from Pepper Viner Investment Co. on July 6, 2001.
According to Mr. Morrison’s résumé posted on his campaign web site and at Linkedin, he was a visiting professor at China Foreign Affairs University in Bejing China from July 2012-July 2013. Prior to that, he was a visiting professor at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies in Guangzho China, from July 2011-July 2012. And prior to that he was Chief of Legislative Affairs for the U.S. Africa Command in Washington, D.C., from January 2009 to July 2011.
Based upon these publicly available records, it appears that Mr. Morrison’s “physical presence with an intent to remain” in Arizona and Pima County did not begin until his return from China after July 2013 at the earliest, and more accurately for purposes of residency, in December 2013 when construction of his single family residence was completed. (One cannot be domiciled for purposes of residency on vacant land or a house being built).
I searched the Pima County Assessor’s records using Mr. Morrison’s name and the Morrison Family Trust for other properties, and it did not turn up any other relevant properties. I did find a property for an individual who is believed to be be Mr. Morrison’s son John, whom he identifies on his campaign web page. That property was purchased in June 2011.
I reviewed Mr. Morrison’s campaign financial disclosure statements filed online with the Arizona Secretary of State. Mr. Morrison’s first general election financial disclosure statement lists the 577 N. Arizona Estates Loop, Tucson AZ address (January 31, 2014). Mr. Morrison’s first primary election financial disclosure statement filed the same day lists the address of whom I believe to be his son John, 3056 N. Soldier Trail, Tucson, AZ 85749 (January 31, 2014). All subsequent reports filed by Mr. Morrison use the 577 N. Arizona Estates Loop, Tucson AZ address.
I obtained Mr. Morrison’s “Nomination Paper Affidavit of Qualification Campaign Finance Laws Statement” from the Secretary of State’s office. Morrison Candidate Filing (.pdf). Mr. Morrison attests in a notarized affidavit that he has been a resident of Arizona for 3 years and of Pima County for 1 year at the 577 N. Arizona Estates Loop, Tucson AZ address. In his financial disclosure statement, he does not disclose any other real estate interests.
All of this raises serious questions. Assuming that the DMV Arizona license report is accurate, how did Mr. Morrison obtain an Arizona driver’s license and register to vote in July 2011 using the 577 N. Arizona Estates Loop, Tucson AZ address, two years before he purchased the property and a single family residence was completed on the property in December 2013?
Assuming arguendo that the DMV Arizona license report is somehow inaccurate, and that Mr. Morrison may have used his son John’s address at 3056 N. Soldier Trail, Tucson, AZ to obtain an Arizona driver’s license and to register to vote, he still has a problem.
A.R.S.§16-101, which pertains to eligibility to vote, provides at Section (B) “For purposes of this title, ‘resident’ means an individual who has actual physical presence in this state, or for purposes of a political subdivision actual physical presence in the political subdivision, combined with an intent to remain. A temporary absence does not result in a loss of residence if the individual has an intent to return following his absence. An individual has only one residence for purposes of this title.”
Mr. Morrison’s résumé indicates that after he registered to vote in Arizona in July 2011, he immediately went to live and teach in China from July 2011 to July 2013. Arguably he was not a qualified elector, because he had no actual physical presence in the state. This would not fall under the “temporary absence” exception, which applies to absences of short duration.
Moreover, the residence at 3056 N. Soldier Trail, Tucson, AZ is his son’s residence, and Mr. Morrison does not disclose this address for purposes of tacking to establish his residency on his candidate filing. He only discloses the 577 N. Arizona Estates Loop, Tucson AZ address.
According to the Arizona Democratic Party’s Voter Activation Network (VAN), which has current voting information purchased from the Secretary of State and/or county election departments, Mr. Morrison is registered to vote at the 577 N. Arizona Estates Loop, Tucson AZ address. He voted by mail-in ballot (PEVL) in elections in 2012.
Given the facts described above, it appears Mr. Morrison was not a qualified elector eligible to vote from the 577 N. Arizona Estates Loop, Tucson AZ address, because the property was a vacant lot that he did not yet own.
Mr. Morrison does not meet the residency requirements to be a candidate for office in Arizona based upon the address he attested to in his Affidavit of Qualification. He could not have resided at this address for 3 years (Arizona) and 1 year (Pima County) because that single family residence was not completed until December 2013.
This information has been provided to the Arizona Democratic Party. Legal counsel for the party advises me that the time has passed for any legal challenge to remove Mr. Morrison from the ballot. A.R.S.§16-351. Mr. Morrison’s residency qualifications for office is an issue for the voters, however.
Mr. Morrison is also a participating candidate in Arizona’s Citizens Clean Elections. The Citizens Clean Elections Commission has jurisdiction to investigate whether Mr. Morrison meets the residency requirements to run for political office and is eligible to receive Citizens Clean Elections funds.
How Mr. Morrison appears to have obtained a drivers license and registered to vote from an address in 2011 that he did not own and for which a single family residence was not completed until December 2013 is a mystery that Pima County officials should investigate.