Manila has spent most of the last two decades represented by a Wagner in the Arkansas House. The incumbent, Rep. Charlotte Wagner, has held the seat for the last six years and is currently term-limited. Her husband, former Rep. Wayne Wagner, previously served from 1987 until term limits began in 1998.
This year, their son, Wes Wagner, has thrown his hat in the ring to take over in the newly-drawn House District 54. With no other candidate and filing long since over, he appears to be a shoe-in. The only problem is he may or may not live in the district.
Chris Gamble, a resident of District 54, filed a lawsuit today in Pulaski County court challenging Wagner’s eligibility to run claiming that he actually lives in Jonesboro.
“Defendant Wes Wagner, a licensed practicing attorney in the State of Arkansas is attempting to defraud the State of Arkansas and the voters of District 54 by falsely claiming to be a resident of Manila, Arkansas by using his law office P.O. Box and undeveloped farm land as his residence. Wes Wagner is actually a resident of Sage Meadows, Jonesboro, Craighead County, and as such is not qualified to be a candidate for District 54 in the November 6, 2012 general election,” says the lawsuit filing.
The lawsuit states that Wagner ran in 2010 for House District 76 with an address listed as 4409 Lochmoor Cir., Jonesboro, AR 72401. When filing for office in 2012, Wagner listed 838 Hwy 77 N., Manila, AR 72442, which the lawsuit claims is undeveloped farm land. Energy Arkansas, the local energy provider has no record of providing service to this address.
There is a lot of evidence that is mounting to support the lawsuit’s claim.
Although Wagner did move his voter registration to Manila, his wife did not and still has her voter registration at 4409 Lochmoor Cir., Jonesboro, AR 72401 and she has voted in an election in the past year. The filing from the Democratic Party of Arkansas for the first quarter of 2012 shows Wagner paying his filing fee with the Jonesboro address listed.
I am sure there will be even more as the trial progresses.
If Wagner is thrown off the ballot, it will be interesting to see what happens next. This would create a vacancy in office and you may recall AG McDaniel’s opinion in 2010 where he ruled Rep. Rick Saunders could remain in office despite term limits after the candidate elected to replace him passed away.
The difference here is redistricting, so District 54 is a completely new district and does not have an incumbent as Rep. Charlotte Wagner was elected to District 77.
UPDATE - Wes Wagner sends along a response although there are still a lot of questions not addressed in it. I have asked him via email and a voice mail message to further clarify where exactly he lives. But here is his statement…
I am aware of a lawsuit that falsely claims I am not a resident of District 54, but I have not been formally served with the Complaint to address any specific allegations.
I am fully aware of the residency requirements, therefore I have no doubt I have been and obviously I am a current resident of District 54.
I have the utmost confidence that this lawsuit has no merit and I can also say that the lawsuit is frivolous in nature because the Plaintiff and I have known each other since childhood.
More importantly, I’m am very excited and look forward to representing the people of Mississippi and Poinsett Counties.