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By W. Gardner Selby July 5, 2011

Roger Williams says foe has never voted in congressional district and doesn't live there

Newly stumping for a U.S. House seat, Roger Williams told a Weatherford crowd that opponent Michael Williams lacks local grounding. The two Williamses (unrelated) are both Republicans who recently dropped U.S. Senate bids to run in the same newly created North Texas House district.

"My opponent does not live in the district," Roger Williams said June 28, according to The Weatherford Democrat. "My opponent has never voted in the district."

Not living there? Never voted there?

Per the U.S. Constitution, a citizen does not have to live in a congressional district to hold its House seat, though they must be an inhabitant of the same state. If a candidate doesn't live in the district, though, their opponents are likely to point that out.

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In this episode, Roger Williams was questioning his foe's ties to the 33rd Congressional District just drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Its map of the state’s 36 congressional districts awaits Gov. Rick Perry’s approval.

Michael Williams’ campaign disputed Roger Williams’ charge in a June 30 press release. The release says Michael Williams and his wife, Donna, "have owned and claimed a homestead exemption on the same home" in the district since 1995 and, it says, Williams has voted in Arlington many times.

In an interview, Will Fullerton, Michael Williams’ campaign manager, told us Williams lived in an Austin condominium while serving on the Texas Railroad Commission, from 1999 to this spring, to satisfy a state constitutional provision requiring statewide elected officials to live in the capital. He said too that Williams has lived in his Arlington home since resigning from the commission as of April 2.

Williams was registered to vote in Austin while serving as a commissioner, Fullerton said, though he laid plans to register in Tarrant County after stepping down.

We turned next to government sources.

According to a clerk with the Tarrant County Appraisal District, Michael and Donna Williams have claimed a homestead exemption on an Arlington residence since 1995. A county elections clerk, Rita Castillo, told us the county fielded a voter registration application from Michael Williams on June 24 and it’s being reviewed by the Texas secretary of state’s office, which oversees elections. Castillo said a state database lists Michael Williams as currently registered to vote in Austin.

Responding to our open-records’ request, Tarrant County later provided information indicating that Michael Williams went to the county’s polls 10 times from November 1994 through November 1999.

To our inquiry, Roger Williams’ spokesman Colby Hale stressed by email that Michael Williams admits to living in Austin for a decade and to making Austin the "principal location where he votes." He later added that Roger Williams intended to say that for more than a decade, Michael Williams lived, worked and voted in Austin.

Far as we can tell, this amended description is about right. However, Michael Williams has also lived in Arlington, where he has claimed a homestead in Arlington for more than 15 years. And contrary to his foe’s published statement, Michael Williams also has voted in the 33rd district and lives there now.

All told, the essence of Roger Williams’ statement — that Michael Williams is a carpetbagger — doesn’t hold up. We rate the claim False.

Our Sources

Press release, "Response to Recent Claims by Roger Williams," , Michael Williams U.S. House campaign, June 30, 2011

Tarrant County Elections Center, response to open-records’ request (excerpted), "Michael Williams Voting History" (received June 30, 2011)

Telephone interview, Rita Castillo, Tarrant County Elections Center, elections clerk, June 30, 2011

Telephone interview, Will Fullerton, campaign manager, Michael Williams campaign, June 30, 2011

Telephone interview, Melissa Salazar, exemptions clerk, Travis County Appraisal District, Fort Worth, June 30, 2011

The Weatherford Democrat, news article, "In the running, Williams kicks of campaign with Weatherford visit," Sept. 29, 2011

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Roger Williams says foe has never voted in congressional district and doesn't live there

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