A candidate from Indiana exchanged a house of $ 1 million against an apartment in a garage | Tennessee News
By CASEY SMITH and TOM DAVIES, Associated Press/Report for America
UTICA, Ind. (AP) – An Indiana congressional candidate changed his voter registration last year to an address that local officials say is not a residence – a large metal-sided garage that he says has a two-bedroom bachelor apartment inside.
Republican Mike Sodrel, who had previously been elected to a single term in the United States House in 2004, changed his residence from a lakeside house worth more than a million dollars located just outside of Southern Indiana’s 9th District as he entered the race for the solidly open GOP seat.
Election experts say the residency changes for Sodrel and another Republican candidate for office do not appear illegal, given that they are not required to live in the district to run for office. However, they come at a time when many Republicans have made “election integrity” a top concern amid former President Donald Trump’s continued questioning of US voting systems.
Sodrel, 76, a multi-millionaire owner of a trucking company, transferred his voter registration Feb. 15 from the lake residence in Bartholomew County — where he had been registered to vote since 2011 — to an address at 70 miles south to Utica, less than a mile from the banks of the Ohio River, just outside of Jeffersonville and in the 9th District.
“As I travel through the 9th arrondissement, what people ask me is what can we do about uncontrollable inflation? About border control and how to control fuel prices. No one wants to know where I live,” Sodrel said.
Residency issues have troubled leading Indiana politicians such as Democrat Evan Bayh and Republican Richard Lugar losing U.S. Senate races over the past decade.
But current 9th District Representative Trey Hollingsworth defeated his opponents by nicknaming him “Tennessee Trey” for moving to southern Indiana just before entering the 2016 race for the open seat in Congress and spending millions of his Tennessee family’s wealth to win a crowded Republican primary. Hollingsworth unexpectedly announced in January that he would not seek re-election, sparking a rush of candidates entering the race.
Sodrel’s $45,000 property tax deduction, listing the Bartholomew County home as his primary residence, was removed earlier this year, according to county property records. He still owns the four-bedroom home with an enclosed pool that has an estimated value of nearly $1.4 million.
Sodrel, a longtime resident of the area until he sold his nearby New Albany home a decade ago, told The Associated Press he was paying $500 a month in rent and the he apartment on the second floor of what he calls a “garage” is now his primary residence.
Sodrel remains the primary owner of the trucking business he started, Jeffersonville-based Sodrel Truck Lines, and his candidate financial disclosure report lists its value as between $5 million and $25 million, with revenue of more than $5 million. million dollars in 2021.
Clark County Assessor’s Office officials, however, said Sodrel’s new address – a property consisting of a post barn and a small cabin – is not a registered residence. City of Utica officials said they were unable to locate building or occupancy permits for the property.
Clark County Sheriff Jamey Noel, who serves on the Indiana Republican State Committee as chairman of the party’s 9th district and county Republican party chairman, said he and his wife have owned the property for the 1990s and that he had paid taxes on it since. .
“(Sodrel) came to see me three years ago and said he was looking for a place to rent because of this market. And that’s how it all happened,” Noel said. “There is enough room for someone to stay.”
Noel said he attributed the criticism over Sodrel’s residency to the “wild accusations” that come with the political season. Sodrel said he was “sure” he would switch from “renting something to buying something at some point”.
Clark County Clerk Susan Popp, a Democrat who is a county election board member, said no complaints about the Sodrel residence or voter registration have been filed.
“He can register there to vote, but that certainly doesn’t look good for someone running for Congress,” she said.
Stu Barnes-Israel, another of nine GOP candidates vying for the 9th District congressional seat, changed his voter registration in recent months from his 4,500 square foot home in Indianapolis to a 2,300 square foot home owned previously to his grandparents in his rural southeast Indiana hometown of Greensburg in the 9th District.
Barnes-Israel and his wife received a property tax deduction on their home near downtown Indianapolis valued at $664,000 through Jan. 20, according to the Marion County Auditor’s Office, though first transferred his voter registration in November 2021 to Greensburg, where he was registered while serving in the military and attending graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania.
Barnes-Israel, who worked for global consultancy McKinsey & Company and Chicago-based investment firm Citadel, said he, his wife and their two sons now live full-time in the ‘nostalgic’ home in 50 miles from Indianapolis.
“We hang out everywhere,” Barnes-Israel said. “We spend some time in Indianapolis to be near an airport, to help balance my career, but Greensburg has been home my whole life.”
Charles Taylor, director of the Bowen Center for Public Affairs at Ball State University, said that at a time when many Republicans question the integrity of the election, Sodrel and Barnes-Israel have opened up to criticism.
“It kind of becomes a political question, like are you really from this neighborhood?” Taylor said. “Do you really live there?”
Casey Smith is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues. Follow Smith on Twitter.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.