State Sen. Judy Burges has formally requested that state officials investigate whether her opponent in the upcoming general election lives outside of District 22.
In letters to State Attorney General Mark Brnovich and the Arizona Clean Elections Commission, Ms. Burges, R-Sun City West, indicates that Michael Muscato owns a residential property in Anthem, which is outside of LD-22.
The letters suggest Mr. Muscato’s claim as a resident of LD-22 is contradicted by a document filed with Maricopa County in order to receive favorable tax treatment on the Anthem property. Primary residences qualify for lower rates than secondary or investment properties.
The Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 16-311(A),(B) states: “At the time of filing, a candidate for public office must be a qualified elector and must reside in the county, district or precinct that the candidate proposes to represent.”
Ms. Burges’ attorney, Timothy La Sota, submitted the letters, including documentation of both of Mr. Muscato’s addresses of residence.
Mr. Muscato has stated he does not live outside the district, currently residing in Peoria.
“This attack against Michael Muscato by Judy Burges is nothing more than a blatant attempt to attack his integrity and to embarrass him just as voting in the 2016 election commences,” read a statement in response to Ms. Burges’ actions. “She will stoop as low as necessary to win.”
Mr. Muscato has stated that he lives at 9601 W. Cielo Grande in Peoria with his parents, his wife, Alicia, and two children. He considers this his primary residence. He attended public school within that area and owns a business in Glendale.
Mr. Muscato stated he purchased his property at 224 W. Ridgecrest Road in Phoenix as an investment property. Documents show he bought the home June 2015 at a sale price of $375,000. The document also indicates the property as a primary residence.
The letters ask Mr. Brnovich and the Clean Elections Commission to determine whether Mr. Muscato is a resident of LD-22. If he is, then did his filing of the Anthem property as his residence violate A.R.S. Section 39-161? Further, did he receive illegal property tax benefits that need to be repaid to Maricopa County?
But if he is not a resident of LD-22, the letters ask officials to decide whether Mr. Muscato violated the statutes by filing a nomination paper and application for certification with Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan, who was also made aware of the situation.
“At a minimum Mr. Muscato must repay the ill-gotten property tax benefit he has received through the erroneous property declaration he filed, but the evidence is mounting that he is not a real resident of Legislative District 22, and there will undoubtedly be more to this story,” Ms. Burges said in a statement.
Mr. Muscato has asked to debate Ms. Burges prior to the election but she has declined to do so. He attempted to attend the LD-22 Republicans Group meeting on Oct. 17 to bring up that proposal again. However, less than 15 minutes after arriving, he was told by the group’s chairman to leave.
“She is welcome to come over for dinner anytime,” he has stated several times via email.
Mr. Muscato also said Ms. Burges had declined to a Clean Elections debate for a second straight election. He released a video after the commission informed him of her response, saying he would meet Ms. Burges and her campaign at any time and place.
“I also asked them (LD-22 Repbulicans) at the recent Sun City Grand fall festival,” Mr. Muscato said via text. “Several Republican members there said they’d love a debate and the heads of the club said ‘no way.’”
The Surprise Chamber of Commerce did the same thing, he added.
“Leaders don’t hide, they hold people accountable and stand up for the people they represent,” Mr. Muscato said. “I’m going to fight for my hometown until the very end and I hope that the voters will do the same for me Nov. 8.”
Independent Newsmedia has contacted the Arizona Clean Elections Commission seeking comment.
Contact Chris Caraveo at email@example.com or 623-876-2531.