Anchorage Democrat who won state House race meets residency rules, judge says

a portrait of a woman in a sweater
Jennie Armstrong. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

An Anchorage Democrat who won a November state House race meets residency requirements to take office, a state court judge ruled Monday.

Superior Court Judge Herman Walker Jr. issued the ruling more than two weeks after hearing the case challenging Democrat Jennifer “Jennie” Armstrong’s eligibility to serve in the Legislature, and just over a week before the new legislative session begins.

The challenge was brought by Republican Liz Vazquez, who lost the Anchorage House race to Armstrong, along with four others who had filed a prior challenge to Armstrong’s eligibility that previously was dismissed by Walker on procedural grounds.

Vazquez, in her lawsuit, asked that Walker declare her the winner of the November election. Vazquez is a former state lawmaker.

The lawsuit pointed to a social media post it said was made by Armstrong, as well as fishing license applications and Armstrong’s voter registration record. It alleged that Armstrong had not been a resident of Alaska for at least three years immediately before filing to run for office — and was therefore not qualified to hold the office.

Under the state constitution, to serve in the legislature one must be a “qualified voter who has been a resident of Alaska for at least three years and of the district from which elected for at least one year, immediately preceding his filing for office.”

The filing deadline was June 1.

Armstrong said in court proceedings and in an affidavit that she moved to Alaska on May 20, 2019. She said that is the date she and her now-husband discussed and decided she would move in with him in Anchorage. She testified that her social media posts weren’t always contemporaneous and that a 2022 fishing license application tracing her residency to May 2019 was more precise than prior applications.

She said she had not considered running for office until May 2022 and that that was “the first time that I had to determine the exact day that I moved to Alaska.”

Walker, in his order, said he found that Armstrong became a resident of Alaska on May 20, 2019, based on the evidence provided.

The House has yet to organize a majority ahead of the upcoming session.

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