BOSTON — State representative candidates Sam Meas and Rithy Uong, both accused of not living in the 18th Middlesex District, will remain on the primary ballot.
The State Ballot Law Commission ruled Friday that the objector, Lowell resident Mark Cote, did not prove “by a preponderance of the evidence” that the candidates lived outside the district for a year before Election Day.
Candidates must live in the district for one year before Election Day in November. This year’s Democratic primary is Sept. 4.
After months of rumors, Cote brought forward the residency challenges. Cote claimed that Meas has been living in Lawrence, and that Uong has been living across the city in the Belvidere neighborhood.
The 18th Middlesex District encompasses the Highlands and the Acre — generally south of the Merrimack River and west of the Lowell Connector. The neighborhood known as Cambodia Town is in the district, represented by state Rep. Rady Mom, who is seeking re-election.
Both Meas and Uong argued they have been living in the Highlands, and the Commission ruled with them on Friday — overruling the challenges from Cote.
“The Commission finds, rules and concludes that the Objector did not meet his burden in demonstrating by a preponderance of the evidence that the Respondent has not been a resident of the 18th Middlesex Representative District since at least November 6, 2017,” the Commission wrote in both rulings, released on Friday.
Meas said he was “very elated” with the decision. He said he knew from the get-go that the challenge would be overruled.
“I’m so happy and ready to move on,” Meas said. “I’m focused on the future and winning the election.”
Lawyer Brian Leahey, representing Uong, also said they were happy with the decision.
“It was the correct decision, and now Rithy looks forward to getting his election in gear and running for office and winning,” Leahey said.
Also on the primary ballot is James Leary, a former School Committee and City Council member.
“It is still a mystery but the objector carries the burden of proof in this important legal process, so now the determination as to where they reside is with the voters,” said lawyer Matt Donahue, representing Cote.
In Cote’s challenge against Meas, he claimed Meas lives in Lawrence and that a tenant lives at Meas’ Lowell residence on Middlesex Street in the Highlands.
During testimony, Meas said he lives in the two-bedroom Middlesex Street condo. Meas said his ex-wife lives at the Lawrence address in question, 82 Genesee Ave., with his two daughters. Consequently, he said, he visits there frequently. Photos on Facebook have circulated of Meas at the Lawrence home.
Cote, who called himself an active political person in the district for 20 years, said he went to the Lowell condo at 1541 Middlesex St., Unit 30, to verify Meas’ residency.
A man named Roger Pin answered the door and said he lives there, according to Cote, who asked Pin to sign a petition to raise the minimum wage. Pin signed the petition as a resident of that address. Meas said during the hearing that Pin is living there with him for the time being.
In Friday’s decision, the Commission wrote about the minimum-wage petition: “… the Commission does not find this ‘petition’ substantial evidence to indicate the Respondent does not live at 1541 Middlesex St., Unit 30.”
As for Uong, he says he has been living in the Highlands at 37 Grace St., across the city from his family, since September so he could challenge Mom. Uong said his family has remained at 124 High St. During testimony, Uong said he “very, very rarely” spends nights sleeping at High Street.
Cote and his lawyer had argued that the former city councilor’s “whole universe” and life remains at the family home on High Street, which should disqualify Uong from the ballot.
In Friday’s decision, the Commission wrote that Uong has moved to Grace Street, separate from his family, to run for state rep.
“This motivation does, however, draw a heightened scrutiny of the veracity and genuineness of other principles and factors of residency,” the Commission wrote. “While the evidence is very close, the Commission finds that the Objector has failed to meet his burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence.”
These residency accusations in the 18th Middlesex District came a month after Meas — Mom’s former campaign manager — accused Mom of assaulting him at a party in Lowell. A judge denied Meas’ request for a harassment protection order against Mom, and a clerk magistrate denied an application for a criminal assault complaint against Mom.
Source: Lowell Sun