Questions arise over Conrad’s residency

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Posted August 3, 2020 | By Bill Thompson, Deputy Editor

Marion County School Board candidate Lori Conrad faced a challenge beyond the two women competing against in the election for the District 1 seat.

At the Republican Women of Ocala candidate forum on Tuesday night, Conrad faced a question about whether she complied with state laws governing candidate residency.

But the county’s top election official said, as far as he and the law are concerned, Conrad is in the clear.

At the event, moderator Kearsten Angel suggested Conrad did not meet the requirement to live in the district she wants to represent.

Under state law, school board candidates must live in the district they run for when the qualifying period ends. Candidates for other state and local offices throughout Florida must meet that mandate “upon election.”

Angel said that her research indicated that Conrad lived “very close” to the district she would represent if elected, but that the southeast Ocala address Conrad filed in election paperwork as her residence when qualifying end in mid-June was just “vacant” land with only a “shack” on it that no one could live in.

Conrad disputed that.

She told the audience that she made the effort to comply after discussing the situation with Elections Supervisor Wesley Wilcox.

According to election records, Conrad’s initial filing in January did include a southeast Ocala address that was outside District 1.

Yet after learning about the discrepancy, Conrad on March 30 changed her voter registration address to the current site.

Wilcox said that was sufficient to meet state law. A residency affidavit Conrad filed on June 5 — a week before qualifying ended — attests that the address in her voter registration is her “legal residence” and that she will maintain residency in that district while in office.

At the candidate forum, Conrad described the building as a “cabin” that is livable on what she called “the farm.”

County property records indicate the 27-acre site contains a 1,320-square-foot “lean to.”

“I do spend part of my time there, and it is in District 1,” she told the forum audience. Conrad also noted her family has owned the property longer than their house “in town.”

“I am there over half of the week, each and every week,” she added.

Wilcox said based on her paperwork and when she changed her registration information, Conrad is “perfectly legal,” and that the current address she goes by is “well within” District 1. Wilcox added that there is neither a requirement nor any legal authority for officials to verify whether candidates live where they claim to reside.

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