David Cole, a military veteran and physician running for the House District 10 seat in Madison County, doesn’t live within the District 10 boundaries, tax records and other documents reviewed by the Alabama Political Reporter appear to show. Additionally, questions have been raised about the validity of the home address Cole provided to elections officials when he filed to run.
Tax records and other standard documentation show that Cole, his wife and three children reside at an address on Cedar Springs Place in Madison. According to new House district maps released in 2020, that would make Cole a resident of District 4.
However, Cole’s voter registration address – and the address he used when he filed to run for office – is a home on Conservancy Drive. Located about two miles away and just within the boundaries of District 10, Cole claims to have moved into the Conservancy Drive home on Nov. 6, 2021, two days prior to the filing deadline. That home, according to tax records and other information, is owned by Himbert Sinopoli and his wife, and the couple have lived in the home for the past four years.
Asked about the discrepancy, Cole’s campaign manager, David Driscoll, said he was confident that Cole meets the residency requirements.
“David Cole is a legitimate and legal candidate per the laws of Alabama,” Cole’s campaign said in a statement late Wednesday evening. “We look forward to the voters making their decisions at the polls.”
Cole declined an interview request, leaving a number of questions unanswered.
Driscoll provided a timeline of Cole’s moves and also provided APR with two leases that Cole said show he met the legal requirements.
The trouble appears to have started when new district lines were drawn in 2020 for the fast-growing Madison County area. It shifted District 10 slightly northward and put the neighborhood containing the Coles’ Cedar Place home in District 4 for the first time.
Driscoll said Cole wasn’t aware at the time that the shift had changed his voting district. Instead, he said, the Coles were looking to downsize their home and move into an apartment. But that process was a slow one, Driscoll said, and Cole chose instead to simply rent from the Sinopolis.
The campaign provided APR with a lease signed by Cole and Himbert Sinopoli and showing that Cole allegedly moved into the home on Conservancy Drive on Nov. 6, 2021. Alabama law requires that candidates live within the district for which they are seeking office for at least a year prior to election. Cole beat the deadline, according to the lease, by a mere two days.
Of course, the arrangement raises other questions, because the Sinopolis also reside at the home on Conservancy Drive, and they have claimed it as their homestead for tax purposes each of the last four years, including in 2022.
That means, if one were to take the situation at face value, Cole, a successful physician in the Huntsville area, would have moved his family of five into a 3,300-square foot home with another family. And done so while their other home – a 3,000-square foot home built in 2002 – sat unoccupied.
Further complicating matters: An APR reporter viewed Cole and his family entering and leaving the Cedar Springs Place home on three separate occasions over the past two weeks, and the home appears to be occupied.
Asked about the discrepancies, Driscoll said that the Coles were still in the process of getting the Cedar Place home ready to sell and still visit the home often. He also provided APR with a lease for an apartment that Cole and his wife signed in September.
“David Cole is a good man who has served his country and I feel confident that he’s residing within the district,” Driscoll said. “He’s clearly registered to vote within District 10.”
Whether Cole actually resides within the district is a question that only a circuit court in Madison County can answer at this point, according to Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill. Because Alabama’s ballots for the upcoming midterm elections have long since been printed – and thousands of absentee ballots have already been returned – there is no mechanism for removing Cole – should he be determined to live outside of the district – from the ballot.
Instead, Merrill said a circuit court challenge would have to be filed. Should Cole win the general election – he’s running against Democratic candidate Marilyn Lands – and the court determines that Cole is not a legal candidate due to residency issues, Cole would be sworn into office and then removed, Merrill said. A special election would then be called to fill the seat.