Residency, personal finances detailed in remaining primary days

Residency, personal finances detailed in remaining primary days

State Rep. Pat Fallon bought a house and moved into Senate District 30 to run for senator of the sprawling district, and the man he’s trying to topple isn’t exactly making him feel at home.

State Sen. Craig Estes of Wichita Falls is leveling sometimes conflicting accusations about where Fallon lives in the lead up to the Republican primary election Tuesday, March 6.

“All I did was move to a different part of the House district that I represent,” Fallon of Prosper said. “Who cares? Nobody cares but him. It’s where I work and sleep. That’s what’s called a residence.”

In the final days of the campaign, endorsements and ads are flying, and campaign cash is flowing. Recently filed statements give a rough picture of candidates’ personal finances.

Fallon is a three-term representative of House District 106 who assumed office in 2013. He is seeking to unseat Estes from a post he stepped into in 2001.

They’re vying for a district spread out in 12 North Texas counties, also taking in part of Denton and Collin counties. Fallon and Estes live at opposite ends of Senate District 30.

With decision time at hand, both men are hitting the campaign trail at a furious pace.

Estes is peppering the far-flung district with colorful mailers brimming with allegations about his opponent’s living situation: Fallon rents an apartment. Fallon rents a home. Fallon doesn’t live in Senate District 30.

Estes said this week he hasn’t seen the latest mailer that went out, but his campaign has made Fallon’s residency an issue early on.

As for Fallon’s district dwelling, “somebody said an apartment. Somebody said a house. I’m not really sure,” Estes said.

Texas Senate District 30 candidate and State Rep. Pat Fallon gives a speech at a Tea Party Meeting Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, at Red River Harley Davidson.

(Photo: Lauren Roberts/Times Record News)

It’s no surprise Fallon takes offense, saying Estes’ accusations are contradictory.

“He’s just getting desperate,” Fallon said. “That’s petty, juvenile name calling. I will not respond in kind. I will talk about actions and issues.”

Born in rural Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Fallon has lived in North Texas 27 years, he said. His time in Texas includes 17 years in Wichita, Collin and Denton counties.

“I’m perfectly poised to be a conservative voice in Senate District 30,” Fallon said.

The challenger said he moved to Prosper in August or September 2017.

Collin County tax records document Fallon owning a property valued at $75,613 in Prosper.

“That was when it was an empty lot. I bought the property for almost $400,000. It’s a new house,” Fallon said.

Deed history from the Denton County Appraisal District reflects that Fallon bought the property Sept. 29, 2017. Records also document 3,541 square feet of improvements – including porches and a garage – built in 2017.

Fallon has claimed no 2017 homestead exemption for the Prosper home because it wouldn’t have qualified, according to the Denton CAD. It was only a lot when the April 30, 2017, due date came around to file for the exemption.

A Zillow.com search shows a 2,827-square-foot home with four bedrooms and three bathrooms at Fallon’s Prosper address. The estimated value is $381,669. The home features a “stunning and spacious entry,” a game room upstairs and the option for fifth bedroom or a media room.

Estes doesn’t dispute that Fallon bought a house in the district.

“He doesn’t live there,” Estes said. “We’ve known that for months. He only registered to vote in this district in December, we think.”

Fallon registered to vote with his Proper address on Oct. 2, 2017, according to the Denton County Clerk’s Office.

In fact, a state Senate candidate is not required to register to vote in the district where he’s seeking office, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

But the candidate must live in the district at least 12 months before the date of the general election, Nov. 6 this year, according to the SOS.

Fallon said he resides in Prosper while his family lives in Frisco so one of his children can finish his fifth-grade year in May.

“He has attended three different elementary schools already,” Fallon said.

For 2015 through 2017 tax years, Fallon claimed a homestead exemption on a Frisco home, according to the Denton CAD.

After the outcome of the primary, the Fallon family will address their living situation, the candidate said.

In returning fire, Fallon pointed out Estes is a renter not a homeowner in Senate District 30.

Wichita County tax records reflect no homeownership for the senator.

Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, met with the Editorial Board of the Wichita Falls Times Record News Wednesday morning.

(Photo: Torin Halsey/Times Record News)

Estes said that was easily explained. He and his wife have been renting in Wichita Falls for about eight months.

“We sold our house that we raised our family in last June,” he said. “We are closing at the end of March, I believe, on a new home … in Wichita Falls.”

Their 5,306-square-foot rental is valued at $439,978 on real estate site Zillow.com. It has four bedrooms and six bathrooms. The two-story home has marble entry flooring, distressed hardwood flooring, three living areas and a master bedroom suite with two bathrooms.

The Country Club neighborhood home Estes and his wife sold to downsize is valued at $739,288, according to Zillow.com. It has four bedrooms and four-and-a-half baths in 5,804 square feet. The “stately” house has chandeliers, a finished basement with fireplace and wet bar, and a detached garage with an apartment above it.

When it comes to District 30 residency, Fallon and Estes’ history stretches further back than their grudge match this primary election.

This isn’t the first time Fallon’s district residency has been called into question.

In the lead up to the 2012 Republican primary for House District 106, Fallon moved to be within that district – but still in Frisco, according to a the Lewisville Texan Journal.

To meet residency requirements, Fallon rented a House for October 2011 close to where his new home in the district was being built.

He won the primary with 71 percent of the vote against Amber Fulton, subsequently wining the seat in the general election in November.

During this campaign, Fallon promised to show local commitment.

“If we do prevail on March 6, I will be getting an apartment in Wichita Falls,” Fallon said.

IF RE-ELECTED, CAN ESTES WORK WITH THE LEADERSHIP?

With the election a few days away, Fallon picked up an endorsement this week from Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. The lieutenant governor wields power as leader of the Texas Senate and the state budget process.

“We have known that Dan Patrick has been working behind the scenes for my opponent for many months,” Estes said. “In my opinion he wants a yes man in the Texas Senate, someone that will do his bidding, in other words, a puppet.”

In light of Patrick’s support, Fallon called into question Estes’ effectiveness in the next legislative session.

Fallon said the incumbent no longer has any relationship with Patrick, he’ll lose his positions of power and other lawmakers will shun him.

“If he were to win now, Senate District 30 would have no seat in the Texas Senate because of his use of incendiary comments,” Fallon said.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick discusses his special session plan to boost teacher pay during a press conference at the Capitol in Austin, Thursday, July 13, 2017. Patrick wants to spend $700 million annually in Texas lottery revenue on bonuses for veteran teachers. (Deborah Cannon,/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

(Photo: Deborah Cannon, AP)

Estes bucked Patrick’s authority a few years ago.

The lieutenant governor sought to make it easier for the party in power to sweep legislation through the Senate in 2015. Estes was the sole Republican senator voting against allowing a simple majority instead of two-thirds to pass a bill.

At the time, Estes said he voted against the measure because he feared it would harm rural districts like his.

In any case, Estes said if he’s re-elected, it won’t be hard at all for him to work with Patrick.

“I look forward to working on our shared conservative agenda,” Estes said.

This week, the senator won a rare endorsement from U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry. Estes posted a statement of support on Facebook from the Republican whose 13th Congressional District includes Wichita Falls.

“Craig works hard, thinks for himself, and is willing to stand up for what he thinks is right,” Thornberry said. “He always remembers that he works for the people in his district, not the power brokers in Austin."

A LOOK AT CANDIDATES’ PERSONAL FINANCES

Candidates running in the Senate primary were required to file a personal financial statement with the Texas Ethics Commission by Feb. 12.

This act of transparency doesn’t provide firm figures, but it pulls the curtain back on how a candidate earns his money and what property he owns.

The incumbent lists his office as a state senator as a source of job income on his statement.

By law, the state pays legislators $600 a month and $190 per diem for each day the Legislature is in session. They can also claim .54 cents mileage reimbursement — the rate for state employees.

In addition, Estes is entitled to a pension from the state since he’s 60 and has served at least eight years.

The senator is president of Nimrod Ventures, a wetland real estate project in West Texas. He also earns income from energy interests. His business interests include Canterbury Ventures, MACE Holdings and Nimrod Ventures, which he also owns stock in along with Ameribancshare.

His investments include municipal bonds and mutual funds. He has financial liabilities with Fidelity Bank and GM Financial. His report lists the sale of his Country Club neighborhood home.

Estes’ main opponent, Fallon, lists being a state representative and a business owner as sources of job income. He has the same lawmaker’s benefits as Estes, excluding the pension due to his age.

Fallon and his wife, Susan, have businesses built on apparel. Real estate, market investments and interests in other businesses also power Fallon’s holdings. He is a company board member or a partner of more than 10 firms.

The Fallons have interests in about 20 businesses, mostly his interests. Among them are Buckeye Partners, Enterprise Products and Plains All American Pipeline.

He earns income from rental properties in Frisco and Little Elm and has property interests in Florida and Massachusetts. His portfolio includes 15 different stocks, including General Electric, Target, Microsoft and Reynolds American Inc.

Republican Craig Carter of Nocona knocked on doors in Wichita Falls to meet with prospective voters as he launched his campaign for the Texas Senate.

He has sold and invested in school, municipal, county and state bonds. He has invested in several mutual funds. Fallon has financial liabilities to Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, his wife to Citi Mortgage Inc.

Anthony Ewing of Frisco gave Fallon the gift of a plane ride.

The third candidate in the Republican primary, Craig Carter of Nocona, has the slimmest personal financial statement. His job income stems from being a business owner.

Carter has said his businesses include the Old Nocona Boot Store, the Nocona Beer & Brewery and Church AV Installers, which puts in audio visual suites for churches and other organizations.

He and his wife, Leigha, also manage Hope 29:11 Inc., a nonprofit food bank and outreach center.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORTS

In the lead up to the primary, Fallon has maintained his lead in cash on hand.

He still had $1.29 million in his war chest for the general election in November, if he wins March 6, according to a campaign finance report due Feb. 26 to the TEC.

Fallon spent $233,065 in his bid to unseat Estes from Jan. 26 through Feb. 24 – the period covered by the report.

He is fueling his campaign on a $1.8 million loan to himself made early on and $30,549 in contributions this filing period.

Estes had $428,024 left to fend off Fallon, according to his Feb. 26 TEC report. He received $105,828 in contributions and spent $281,384 to keep his seat. No loans are listed.

The third candidate in the Republican primary, Carter, has $6,019 on hand, according to his Feb. 26 TEC report. He received about $419 in donations and spent $25,116. Carter has made $128,500 in loans to himself over the campaign.

He has said that he planned to invest in his own campaign but not to the extent that it left the Carters’ charity, Hope 29:11 Inc., with less.

The winner of Tuesday’s Republican primary will face Democrat Kevin Lopez of Bridgeport in the general election on Nov. 6.

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