• Clay County School Board race will head to court over candidate's residency

    By: Kevin Clark , Action News Jax

    Updated:

    A Clay County School Board incumbent is challenging her opponent’s eligibility for the General Election, less than two weeks away.

    District 5 board member Ashley Gilhousen says her opponent, Lynne Chafee, isn’t an eligible candidate.

    The lawsuit filed this week claims Chafee did not live in Green Cove Springs when she qualified for the seat.

    “We felt like we owed it to the public that they know before they go to the ballot box, exactly what’s going on,” said Gilhousen by phone.

    The suit asks a Circuit judge to remove Chafee from the ballot.

    “It’s very concerning to me that somebody seeking public office would not feel an equal burden of responsibility to follow the law,” said Gilhousen.

    According to statute, a candidate must be a resident of the district they’re vying for, at the time he or she qualifies.

    Action News Jax caught up with Lynne Chafee on Thursday, at one of her homes in Green Cove Springs.

    Chafee says she owns three homes. Two are in Green Cove Springs, and one is in Fleming Island. Chafee says she put the latter home on the market in the last week.

    “I am a resident of Green Cove Springs,” Chafee told us.

    When we asked her where she lived at the time she filed for election, she said, “I’m not going to talk about it, my attorney has told me not to discuss it.”

    Chafee says Gilhousen’s campaign has been stalking her, and called it “dirty politics.”

    “I’m sorry that Ashley must be very threatened that she’s going to lose this race to me,” she said, “Or they wouldn’t be doing this.”

    At this point, it is up to the court system.

    Former Duval Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland says elections officials have no power to investigate whether a candidate’s residency information is accurate.

    “I think for many reasons it was so the Supervisor of Elections wouldn’t have too much power, or wouldn’t be the one deciding whether someone should be on the ballot or not on the ballot,” he said.

    According to the court docket for this case, a court date has not been set. It’s not clear if there will be one before the election.

    There have been rare cases where a candidate wins an election and is later deemed ineligible.

    More than ten years ago, a circuit court invalidated the election of Jacksonville city councilman Jay Jabour, because he did not meet residency requirements.

    Holland tells Action News Jax depending on a county’s charter, the position would be filled by special election or Governor appointment. 

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