January 13, 2021 – Hartford, WI – The State Elections Commission will meet Friday, January 15, 2021 in Madison to determine whether Don Pridemore has filed valid paperwork to run for State Senate District 13, the seat recently vacated by incoming Fifth District Congressman Scott Fitzgerald.
Click HERE for a map of State Senate District 13.
The challenge by Steven Hepp, received Monday, January 11, 2021, questions Pridemore’s residence listed on his nomination paperwork. The address is 459 Abbot Avenue, Hartford. That address is also the primary residence of Hartford Mayor Tim Michalak and his wife Annemarie.
“Yes, that’s where I’m living with my wife Tina,” said Pridemore. “The mayor is the one renting it to me.”
Michalak also works on Pridemore’s campaign.
Pridemore said he has an upstairs bedroom and bathroom. “He has enough space, (bedrooms) he had seven kids,” said Pridemore.
Pridemore still owns his own home on Hwy K in the town of Erin however, he is in the process of selling that home to his son. “The house in Erin is in a trust the problem is with redistricting coming up I have no idea where the new boundaries will go,” he said.
“I probably spend more time at my office in downtown Watertown than anywhere else; I rent that as well,” said Pridemore.
Questioned whether he is living in Hartford, Pridemore said, “for the most part.”
Apparently, there were some Covid issues that affected the housing arrangement. “The quarantine disrupted some of the issues with renting the bedroom upstairs for three weeks,” Pridemore said. “We came back to the house in Erin during the summer but when everybody was clear we were welcomed back into the house.”
Pridemore said he goes back and forth between the office and the Hartford residence and the home in Erin. “I still have to maintain my house so I am there,” he said. “Between those three locations that’s where I spend my time.”
The State Elections Commission has statutes that define residency. Questioned whether he is meeting those qualifications, Pridemore said, “I believe I am.”
Questioned about running for a position of the caliber of a State Senate seat did Pridemore ever consider simply moving into the district. He reiterated, “My house is up for sale, my son is buying it, we don’t have terms or move-in, move-out dates established yet so… that’s why I set up a family trust.”
If he wins, will Pridemore remain a renter of the mayor? “I don’t know when the redistricting will start and if I have to sell the house quickly, I can do that,” he said. “I probably will not continue renting from the mayor.”
Pridemore said he had not heard any comments from anyone while collecting signatures. “I’m sure it would lend more credibility to my campaign if I lived here and I plan on doing that,” he said. “I’ve been working on it since February 2020 when I signed the lease… and I’m still working on it.”
“It would be foolish for me to do anything because if I sold the house tomorrow and in a couple months, they redistrict I could be in a totally different environment and have to sell again,” Pridemore said.
Questioned how many nights a week he’s in Hartford and how many nights he is at home in Erin he said, “Again the Covid thing messed things up all summer until Christmas; I’ll have to ask my wife,” he said.
Reid Magney is public information officer with the Wisconsin Elections Commission. said the challenge was received Monday, January 11, 2021 by Steven Hepp.
“You don’t have to be a resident of the district in order to run,” said Magney. “If you win you have to be a resident of the district 28 days before you take the oath of office.
“The question here is about the information Mr. Pridemore put on his paperwork and is it accurate. The challenger is basically saying Mr. Pridemore doesn’t actually live there and for that reason his paperwork should not be allowed because of that.”
The decision is up to the Wisconsin Elections Commission which will meet Friday, January 15 at 2 p.m. in Madison. Click HERE to watch the meeting.
“Basically, they will be considering whether he should be allowed on the ballot if he in fact does not live at that address, but there are various statues that define residence so the commission is going to have to make a decision on that,” said Magney.
In terms of Pridemore’s concern about buying a new home with redistricting on the horizon, Magney said that is not a factor.
“In this legislative session the legislature has to pass a law creating new districts based on census information. That data is not available yet. But the redistricting doesn’t affect this at all,” he said. “That has absolutely nothing to do with this.”
The Friday meeting will be carried out in this fashion, according to Magney.
“On Friday at the meeting the challenger will have a chance to speak and so will Mr. Pridemore or his attorney, the commission will have a public debate and then a public vote. A decision will be made Friday because there is a narrow window for clerks to get ballots printed so a decision is needed.
“If either the complainant or Mr. Pridemore disagrees with the decision, they would have an opportunity to take that to court,” said Magney.
Click HERE for a full copy of the challenge filed with the State Elections Commission.
Pridemore currently serves on the Hartford Jt1 School Board as its vice-president; he must live within the district to be on the school board.
Click HERE for a list of candidates running for State Senate District 13.
The primary is February 16, 2021. The General Election is April 6, 2021.