It's nothing new for politicians' opponents to try to throw them out of office by claiming they don't live in the district they represent. But the effort to unseat Annapolis Alderman Kenneth Kirby comes with an unusual twist. Republicans have challenged Mr. Kirby's residency, and the mayor and the rest of the council are scheduled to take up the matter on Monday, not because he has moved somewhere else but because he is, effectively, homeless. Mr. Kirby says he stays with family and friends. His only income is his council salary, not much more than $12,000 a year, and he can't afford anything else.
The fact that Mr. Kirby has fallen on hard times makes the effort to drive him from office particularly cruel. That such challenges have been uniformly unsuccessful under Maryland law makes it doubly so. Annapolis ordinances only make it clear that a candidate for City Council must live in his or her district for six months prior to the election; nothing explicitly addresses the question of residency during a term.
Even if it did, Maryland courts have held "residency" to be a vague concept based more on an individual's intent than anything concrete like property records, leases or even where a politician sleeps at night. Elected officials have been permitted to keep their jobs in spite of maintaining well-documented abodes outside their districts, and in some cases, voters have returned them to office in spite of that fact. At least Mr. Kirby isn't going to get caught double-dipping on homestead property tax credits.
Mr. Kirby doesn't represent Annapolis' glitzy waterfront or its wealthy historic neighborhoods. His district contains a lot of apartment buildings and modest homes. It's a working-class area, and one where many residents are likely also struggling. Far from a disqualification, Mr. Kirby's situation may well make him even better able to represent his constituents' needs.