Suit challenges eligibility of Alaska legislative candidate

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A lawsuit filed in state court is challenging the eligibility of an Alaska legislative candidate to hold the seat.

The lawsuit filed Monday alleges Democrat Jennifer “Jennie” Armstrong did not meet residency requirements on the date she filed to run for office. The complaint seeks an injunction barring state elections officials from certifying Armstrong as the winner of her Anchorage House race should she garner the most votes. Armstrong faces Republican Liz Vazquez in next week’s election.

The case, brought by Chris Duke, Randy Eledge, Steve Strait and Kathryn Werdahl, names the state Division of Elections and its director as defendants. The plaintiffs are described as “public interest litigants.”

Patty Sullivan, a spokesperson with the state Department of Law, said Tuesday morning that the department had not yet been served an official copy of the complaint and could not comment on the specific allegations.

But she said that Armstrong has been certified for the ballot based on information she provided in her declaration of candidacy and that the time for any challenge to her eligibility under a state law and regulation has expired.

“There is no process for the Division to find a candidate disqualified based on residency at this point in the process,” Sullivan said by email.

Sullivan said the “next opportunity to challenge the candidate’s residency qualifications would be in an election contest,” should Armstrong win the general election.

Armstrong did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment Tuesday. An attorney representing her, Scott Kendall, said he was seeking to intervene in the case on Armstrong’s behalf.

“I think the outcome of this litigation is going to be extremely clear that she’s qualified for office,” Kendall said.

The lawsuit points in part to a provision of the Alaska Constitution that states that a member of the Legislature “shall 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 candidate filing deadline was June 1.

The complaint cites a social media post by Armstrong that it says was dated around June 13, 2019, and said “last weekend, I moved to Alaska.” It says in a resident fishing license application in late June 2020, she indicated she had been a resident for “one year and zero months,” and in a late July 2021 application indicated she had been a resident of Alaska for two years and one month.

On a license effective in late July 2022, her residency is listed as three years, two months, according to a copy included in the legal filings.

The lawsuit claims Armstrong “did not demonstrate the intent to remain in Alaska until at least June 7, 2019” and “as late as August 26, 2019,” when it says she registered to vote.