Write-in mayoral candidate’s eligibility is unclear

Gary Watts is being allowed to run in Everett, but if he wins, the city will decide if he qualifies.

Gary Watts

Gary Watts

EVERETT — Should write-in mayoral candidate Gary Watts win this fall, he might never spend a day in office.

Watts does not fully comply with Everett’s residency requirements for those seeking to serve as mayor and thus a victory by him could spawn a legal challenge of the election results.

Under the city charter, no person is eligible to hold elective office in Everett unless they have been both a registered voter and a resident of the city for at least one year preceding their election.

Watts said Monday he’s lived in an apartment above his Z Sports automotive shop on Smith Avenue since 2010. But he acknowledged he had been registered and voted at an address outside city limits until re-registering to the Smith Avenue address earlier this month. He did that at the same time he filed as a write-in.

County elections officials determined he is eligible to run and it would be up to the city to resolve if he is qualified to serve as mayor should he win.

“The City is not planning any action,” Meghan Pembroke, the city’s communications director, wrote in an email Tuesday. “Any challenges to a candidate’s qualifications may be brought under certain state statutes no later than 10 days after the election.”

City Councilwomen Cassie Franklin and Judy Tuohy are competing to succeed retiring Mayor Ray Stephanson in the Nov. 7 election. Watts launched his write-in bid Sept. 6.

For the August primary, and several election cycles before that, he was registered at a home on 29th Avenue SE in unincorporated Everett. It is in a precinct bordering the city boundaries.

Watts said he “built that home” and his ex-wife and son continue to live there, he said.

He said Monday he didn’t realize the situation until he went to the Snohomish County Auditor’s Office to sign up as a write-in. That’s when election officials asked about his residency since they saw he was not a registered voter in Everett.

“They wanted me to prove that I was a resident (of Everett) and I did,” he said, pointing he re-registered at that time.

The election is Nov. 7. Ballots will be mailed Oct. 19.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

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