Garrett Graff’s fledgling Vermont political career may have run into a roadblock. But he hasn’t given up.
The 34-year-old Montpelier native said last week he plans to return to Vermont after a decade living in the Washington, D.C., area and that he was exploring a run for lieutenant governor as a Democrat in next year’s election.
Monday morning, however, Secretary of State Jim Condos said that after studying residency requirements for candidates in the Constitution of Vermont and consulting with the Attorney General’s Office, “We are not sure how Mr. Graff could meet this.”
Condos said he has not spoken with Graff and emphasized his statement was based on reading the law and hearing a description of Graff's living situation from the news media. "We're not saying he can'trun, but here's what the law says," Condos said.
The constitution states: “No person shall be eligible to the office of Governor or Lieutenant-Governor until the person shall have resided in the State four years next preceding the day of election.” Condos, who last week called that wording unclear, said Monday that he and the Attorney General's Office have interpreted that to mean a candidate has to live in the state at least four years leading up to the election.
Graff disagrees. “I’m a Vermonter. I was born in Vermont, and I wake up every day of my life a Vermonter," he said via email Monday. "I’ve consulted with the state’s leading expert on election law, Paul Gillies, and I have no doubt that I meet the residency requirement. He said it’s ‘not even a close call.’”
Gillies did not return a call and Graff did not respond to further inquiries Monday.
Condos acknowledged that state law allows those who are temporarily out of state to remain registered to vote in Vermont. But, he said, that “relates to voter registration only.”
Graff is registered to vote in Montpelier, City Clerk John Odum said Monday. Odum said Graff voted regularly in general elections from 2004 through 2010, but hadn’t voted there since.
Odum said the Montpelier Board of Civil Authority has a pending challenge to Graff’s voter registration, a standard process when someone has not voted for two election cycles. That means the city should have sent Graff a letter sometime in the last few months asking him to affirm that he wants to remain registered here, Odum said. After another two election cycles without voting, such a voter would likely be purged from the city’s list, Odum said.
Graff said last week that he and his wife have bought a house in Burlington and are moving back to Vermont. He last lived in the state in 2004, while working for former governor Howard Dean’s presidential campaign. He was editor of Washingtonian magazine and in January became editor of Politico Magazine, from which he announced his departure October 30.
Graff is looking to run for an open lieutenant governor’s seat, as Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott plans a gubernatorial run. Two others have filed to run as Democrats — Rep. Kesha Ram (D-Burlington) and Marlboro resident Brandon Riker. One Republican — former state auditor and senator Randy Brock — has also filed.