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District 10 election challenge moves towards House hearing

The two sides have submitted questions for depositions and appear to be settled on a process for hearing the matter.

David Cole
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David Cole apparently plans to tell the Alabama House of Representatives that he rented a room from a family friend to serve as his family’s primary residence and meet the residency requirement under Alabama law to run for District 10 representative, according to court filings by Cole in the challenge filed against his election. 

Cole, through his attorney Al Agricola, filed two motions this week in the ongoing challenge to his election as the District 10 representative. That challenge was filed by Libertarian candidate Elijah Boyd, who also ran for the District 10 seat. That challenge will be heard by the House of Representatives, because Cole was sworn in before the challenge was filed, and will be decided based on depositions and Cole’s testimony before the full House. 

The two sides are currently sorting through the legal process that will provide the depositions. According to state law, the depositions in the challenge have to be taken by written questions submitted to a commissioner who will ask them of the parties involved. Former Alabama State Bar president Richard Raleigh will be the commissioner in the matter. No date for the depositions has been set yet. 

In the filings this week, Cole objected to the number of questions filed by Boyd – more than 400 in all – and asked that the Madison County Circuit Court, which is overseeing the process, limit the questions to just 50. 

Cole also filed cross interrogatories, or questions that he would like to be asked during his deposition. Those questions indicated Cole’s defense in the challenge – that he had a valid lease from a family friend and later leased an apartment in District 10. 

“​​When you signed the lease for the premises at [redacted] Conservancy Drive, Madison, Alabama, Did you intend to abandon your previous domicile located at [redacted] Cedar Springs Place, Madison, Alabama?” one of the questions reads. “When you signed the lease for the premises at [redacted] Conservancy Drive, Madison, Alabama, did you intend for your new domicile to be at that address?”

APR first reported Cole’s residency issues in late October, just before the election. On his filing forms to qualify to run for the seat, Cole listed his residence at Conservancy Drive, which is just inside the District 10 boundaries. However, according to tax records, on which Cole claimed his homestead exemption, his actual residence was on Cedar Springs Place. 

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The Cedar Springs Place home, following the 2020 redistricting, was moved from District 10 to District 4. When questioned about the discrepancy, Cole’s campaign claimed that he and his family of five moved from the Cedar Springs Place home after a lease was signed at the Conservancy Drive home. The listed owners of the Conservancy Drive home never moved, the campaign said, but instead only leased “some space” to Cole and his family. 

Cole and his family were observed going in and out of the Cedar Springs Place home on numerous occasions in the months after the filing deadline. In fact, by all appearances, the family still resides in that home today, even as Cole fights the challenge to his residency and District 10 residents apparently enter a legislative session without a representative who lives in the district. 

Cole appears willing to carry this fight out to the end. In addition to the objection to the number of Boyd’s questions, he also filed notice that he wants to question Boyd and two additional witnesses – Anson Knowles, a Republican who challenged Cole in the primary and who filed the initial challenge to Cole’s residency with the Alabama Republican Party, and Democratic House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels. It’s unclear how questioning any of the three could be helpful to determining whether Cole meets basic residency requirements under Alabama law.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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