MU professors discuss state auditor candidate's eligibility

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COLUMBIA - A Missouri candidate who recently claimed a surprise victory in the Republican primary for state auditor is now facing questions about if she’s lived in the state long enough to be eligible to run.

The state Constitution outlines an auditor must have been a Missouri resident for 10 years at the time of election. But Saundra McDowell, an attorney living in Jefferson City, didn't move to Missouri until 2010.

McDowell said she was on a "temporary status" to live in Missouri. MU political science professor Peverill Squire said this would be a very weak argument if used in court.

"My guess is that the requirement would be that you have some physical tie to the state; that you have residency in the state," he said.

Squire said intentions alone to live in the state will not help in the case of determining residency in Missouri. The only way this issue becomes a problem is if the Democratic party decides to file a lawsuit against her. 

Squire doesn't think the Democrats will do this. "The Republican candidate is not particularly in a good position right now. She does not have very much campaign money," he said.

This is an issue the Democratic party could use as a way for her out of the candidacy if McDowell wins the state auditor position according to Squire.

MU law professor Frank Bowman agreed that the intent to live in Missouri is a weak argument, but said McDowell can use another argument if this goes to court.

He said, "The 8th Circuit at some point or another had determined that this ten year residency requirement for the state auditor was unconstitutional."

The 8th Circuit said this was unconstitutional because it violated equal protection and discriminated against people who recently moved to Missouri. 

If this matter becomes serious, Squire said the Republican party would try to quickly replace McDowell.

"The Republican party would probably try and put somebody on that line in her place, but it's not clear if they will have time to do that," he said.

KOMU reached out to both Saundra McDowell and Nicole Galloway's campaign office for further comment, but neither got back to us.

McDowell will face Galloway in the general election on Nov. 6. Changes to the ballot would have to come before Sept. 26 if a lawsuit is filed against McDowell.  

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