Indiana News

Opponent challenges state senator's residency

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) -- Just days from Indiana's primary election, one of Republican State Sen. Jim Merritt's opponents has claimed he should be disqualified from the race.

Crystal LaMotte, a Republican candidate running against Merritt for his Indiana Senate seat in Tuesday's primary, took the stage Friday afternoon and claimed an anonymous tipster told her seven weeks ago that Merritt doesn't live within District 31, the part of Indianapolis he represents. 

"We're asking for Merritt to resign. We're asking for him to take himself off of the ballot. He's clearly unfit to serve," LaMotte said at a news conference.

Merritt responded Friday afternoon: "I'm not resigning. I am not getting off the ballot. I'm going door-to-door right now just to talk with constituents like I've been doing my whole career."

LaMotte showed pictures she claims were taken in the last three weeks by a private investigation team she hired to scope out the property Merritt lists as his home address.

"The blinds never changed in the three weeks that we were there. They were very specifically opened including the bedroom blinds. My people never saw a single light come on in this apartment," LaMotte said.

"What I can tell you about this is -- can I prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that he does not live there? No. Do we have pictures of the property? Do we have interviews with neighbors who tell us this individual doesn't live there? Yes," LaMotte said.

"That's a little unsettling. I'm there every day. I go to bed there, and I wake up there," Merritt said in response.

So WISH-TV asked Merritt directly whether he lived in the district he represents. 

"Yes, I do. Categorically, I live within my district," was his response.

Merritt's team provided the declaration of candidacy he filed with the state Feb. 5 as part of his primary documents, plus a copy of his voter registration. Both list his address in Indianapolis.

"I'm within state law; my residence is in the district. I filed from that address. I vote from that address. It's very clear that I'm within legal bounds of the law," 

R. Matthew Zapfe, the Senate majority campaign committee executive director, on Friday said LaMotte had filed her 2017 campaign finance report two months late. Zapfe said they expect her to be called in front of the election commission in June to answer for that. 

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