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Senate candidate testifies on voter location, drivers license, taxes and property changes

A state Senate candidate whose residency is being questioned testified in court today today that she has lived in North Carolina, Minnesota and West Virginia over the past decade but that she considers West Virginia home.

The state constitutional standard that Andrea Garrett Kiessling, a candidate in a competitive Republican primary, has to meet is being a citizen in West Virginia for five years and one year in the district she seeks to represent prior to being elected.

The five-year standard would begin for her in 2017. The one-year standard for the district would have started last year.

Kiessling’s eligibility is being challenged by a Republican voter in Kanawha County, Alicia Stine. A hearing today in Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom’s courtroom brought up Kiessling’s long voting record in North Carolina, her drivers license and vehicle registration and the homes she has lived in.

After the hearing of a little less than an hour, Bloom asked lawyers on all sides to submit written findings. The judge expected to render a decision after that.

Andrea Garrett Kiessling

Kiessling testified that she purchased a home and farm in Roane County in November, 2021.

She testified that she bought and titled vehicles in West Virginia in 2019.

She got a West Virginia drivers license in August 2021. Her drivers license reflected North Carolina residency from 2012 to 2021.

She filed West Virginia income tax returns the past two years and filed in North Carolina the years prior to that.

“And all of those things that you just testified to are things that have become true over the past couple of years. They have not been true for five years, correct?” asked attorney Anthony Majestro, representing the plaintiff challenging Kiessling’s eligibility.

“What, specifically?” Kiessling asked.

“That you haven’t been paying taxes in West Virginia, you don’t have a West Virginia driver’s license, you have not been here full time for five years,” Majestro elaborated.

“Those statements are correct,” Kiessling said.

Her voting record shows participation in North Carolina elections from 2012 to 2020.

Documentation from the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office shows that Kiessling first registered as a Republican in Spencer in 2009 and voted in the 2010 GOP primary.

For years after that, the documentation notes that no record of voting activity is found in West Virginia. In 2018, the Secretary of State’s Office made note that she had not responded to a standard confirmation request. In February, 2021, there was a note that she had been inactive for two federal elections. That’s a period that led to her being swept from the state’s voter rolls.

search of North Carolina’s voter rolls shows that Andrea Garrett Kiessling, with the same birth date, of Charlotte is still listed as an eligible voter there. Her voting record shows participation in the 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020 general elections in Mecklenberg County.

Kiessling’s activity picks up in West Virginia again at the end of this past January as she registers as a voter at a Roane County address, starting Jan. 29.

Also on Jan. 29, she registered to run for state Senate.

“So you believe you were a resident of the state of North Carolina at least enough to vote in North Carolina, correct?” Majestro asked.

Kiessling responded, “I was registered to vote in North Carolina, and I would not have missed the opportunity to vote,” indicating that in recent years she traveled to North Carolina for voting.

“You understand you’re only permitted to vote in that state if you’re a resident of the state?” Majestro followed up.

“I understand,” Kiessling responded.

Majestro asked, “So all those years you were voting in North Carolina, you believed you were a resident of the state of North Carolina?”

Kiessling said, “I believe it is a privilege and priority to vote, and so that’s what I did.”

Early voting in West Virginia’s Primary Election is already under way, and Election Day is a week from now.

Senate District 8, where Kiessling is a candidate, covers includes Roane and Clay counties and parts of Kanawha, Putnam and Jackson.

Stine’s petition, which also names the Secretary of State’s Office, asks for Kiessling to be declared ineligible to run, to have her name removed from ballots, to have votes for Kiessling disregarded and for county clerks to post signs at polling places stating that she is ineligible.

The residency issues were raised initially last week by another Republican in the race, former state Delegate Joshua Higginbotham. Other Republican candidates in the race are Mark Hunt, a former Democratic delegate from Charleston, and Mark Mitchem from Clay.

Kiessling has received consistent backing by Senate Finance Chairman Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, who is unopposed in his own race for re-election. In a social media post after Higginbotham went public with his claims, Tarr referred to them as a “disinformation campaign.”

Greg Thomas

West Virginia political consultant Greg Thomas has been advising Kiessling and, lately, publicly feuding with Higginbotham.

Thomas, the executive director of West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, today publicly objected to the nature of the proceedings on Kiessling’s residency.

“The Judge Bloom hearing is nothing short of a partisan attack. Surely the State Supreme Court will see this desperate attempt by greedy liberal personal injury lawyers to prevent a Christian businesswoman, mother of three who doesn’t support letting boys use girls bathrooms,” he wrote in a series of tweets.

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