St. Petersburg Times Online: Business

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

Senate hopeful's house a 2nd home

A candidate's Valrico neighbors haven't seen much of her, but residency isn't required until she's elected.

LETITIA STEIN
Published October 28, 2005

VALRICO - As she campaigns to represent east Hillsborough in the state Senate, Sandy Murman says she goes back and forth between her house on Davis Islands and a townhome in Valrico.

But neighbors in the Savannah Landings townhome community, which Murman considers a second residence, think someone else lives there.

They haven't met Sandy Murman. But they know her brother-in-law, Bob.

A local Realtor, Bob Murman said in an interview that he pays rent to use the townhome as an office and stays there part-time.

He has registered his BMW convertible there. He votes there. His neighbors say he - not Sandy - lives there.

"If anybody ever asked me who lives there, I'd say one man by himself," said Fred Seemann, 45, who lives next door.

Across the street, Patricia Cameron, 84, has never met Sandy Murman, either. Neither have several other neighbors in the gated community of about 100 townhomes off Bloomingdale Avenue.

Sandy Murman said she drops in sporadically.

"It's not like I'm there every single second," Murman said. "It's just like people own a second home, and they may go to a beach house every weekend."

She said Wednesday she thought she last spent the night three or four weeks ago.

The water view may be better from Davis Islands, where Murman lives on a canal. Her traditional white brick house with black shutters has five bedrooms and an American flag flying from the second story.

The Valrico townhome has three bedrooms and overlooks a retention pond. But it sits in the district that Murman hopes to represent in the state Senate.

State law doesn't require Murman to live in the district before the election.

Murman, 55, said she doesn't understand why anyone would question where she lives.

"Why is this issue more important than education or transportation?" said Murman, a Republican who previously represented neighborhoods from south Tampa to east Hillsborough in a state House district that included Davis Islands.

"The people of Brandon, who I have served, know me. They know what my community involvement is," she said.

State law requires elected officials to reside in their district when they take office. So if a politician living in south Tampa gets elected to represent greater Brandon, she'd be breaking no laws to move there on Election Day, said Mark Herron, an attorney specializing in election law.

"Residency is a slippery concept," Herron said. "Obviously, it could be a political issue in the race."

If elected, Murman said she intends to comply with the law.

Murman, who is planning a holiday party at the townhome, expects to spend more time in Valrico as her campaign picks up early next year.

"We'll bring clothing out here and my make-up," said Murman, noting that her husband will stay in Valrico with her periodically. "I'm just going to move out here and be a full-time resident. Obviously, that seems to be important."

But today, Murman couldn't cast a ballot for herself in the state Senate race. She's registered to vote on Davis Islands, located in a different district. Her brother-in-law, Bob, is registered to vote at the Valrico townhome.

On Davis Islands, neighbors see her jogging in the morning. She is planning a charity fundraiser in December with residents, who are each planning to host different dinner courses at their homes, said friend Dottie Berger MacKinnon. Cocktails and hors d'oeuvres begin at the Murman's.

Legally, Murman's residence also is on Davis Islands. Murman and her husband jointly own the home on Blanca Avenue, valued at more than $1-million, according to county records. They claim their homestead exemption there.

Times researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report. Letitia Stein can be reached at 661-2443 or lstein@sptimes.com

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.