Congressman Pete Sessions, chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, is expected to coast easily to victory in the upcoming March 4 Texas primary. Tea Party challenger Katrina Pierson, a 37-year-old black single mother, had banked just $50,000 at the close of 2013, compared to Sessions’ $1.3 million.
But as the Texas early voting period winds down, Sessions’ Dallas-area district has been rocked by revelations that he may not actually live in the district he represents — or even in the state of Texas.
On his candidate filing documents and his voter registration form, Sessions lists an efficiency apartment in a low-rent Dallas apartment complex as his permanent address. Neighbors report that they haven’t seen anyone resembling Sessions — or anyone else, for that matter — in or near the apartment in at least a year and a half.
After the White Rock Tea Party posted a video of his neighbors’ claims, Sessions’ campaign manager, Kim Locus, fired back in an email blast, calling the allegations “blatant lies.” She insisted Sessions moved from the apartment and into a Dallas townhouse in January for security reasons.
Yet as late as January 19, Congressman Sessions was still claiming he lived in an apartment. Wrote Locus:
During his separation and subsequent divorce in 2011, Pete moved into an efficiency apartment in The Village Apartments. True to his conservative values, Pete was trying to live as frugally as possible, even sleeping in his Washington, D.C. office while working there. Pete chose this apartment because it was close to his son and ex wife.
Locus added that the allegations were “ludicrous”:
[It is] offensive and insulting to insinuate that because someone’s home is not a million-dollar home that it is not adequate or beneath them.
Locus’ claims of frugality are inconsistent with Sessions’ lifestyle, however. Sessions — who in 2012 sold his 5,500 square-foot Dallas home for $1.4 million as part of his 2011 divorce settlement with his wife Juanita — owns an $85,945 2012 Range Rover Sport registered to his district office in Dallas. He also has a $30,000 2011 Chevy Silverado 1500 Crew Cab pickup truck registered to that same address. In addition, Sessions and his new wife, former Florida congressional candidate Karen Diebel, own a $650,000 condo in Orange County, Florida, and a $824,600 condo in Aspen, Colorado.
Under the U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 2), members of Congress must reside in the state that incorporates the district they represent. It is not necessary to live in the same district, but they must live in the same state.
Questions surrounding Sessions’ residency are raising doubts among District 32 voters. Pierson campaign workers report that while they’re having little to modest success engaging voters on such issues as Benghazi, Obamacare, the budget, and the IRS scandal, the issue of residency is capturing their attention. Said Beth Biesel of the Pierson campaign:
That was a zinger. … I literally saw a visceral reaction when I would tell people that. I never led with that because I thought people would be most interested in the issues. And when there wasn’t much reaction, I just kind of threw this out as a parting remark. And wow. That got their attention.
The Pierson campaign grew from disillusionment with the 17-year incumbent Sessions among many voters in District 32, whom Sessions has represented for the last 11 years. They complain that Sessions hampered efforts to create a House Select Committee on Benghazi, that he argued against efforts to defund Obamacare, and that he has voted for ever-increasing levels of spending.
Residency issues can have a powerful impact. According to the Senate Conservatives Fund, U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) suffered a 28-point collapse in his primary race with challenger Dr. Milton Wolf after it was reported that Roberts had misled voters about his residency for years. Roberts now polls below 50 percent.
Says Russ Ramsland, leader of the Preston Hollow/Park Cities Leadership Forum, a grassroots citizens organization in Dallas:
The issue of Pete’s veracity is beginning to overtake even the issue of his geography. People aren’t liking his attempts at deception even more than the fact he doesn’t live here. It’s all so Washington.