Voter challenge, subpoenas requested in dispute over council candidate's residency

A candidate for Tacoma City Council who placed third during last month’s Primary Election, and has since challenged the candidate who defeated him over whether he lives in the district for which he is running, has requested subpoenas, the Index has learned.

The request comes at the same time a Tacoma resident has stepped forward to contest the election.

Tacoma attorney Donald Powell, who was defeated by boxer-turned-street-preacher Ronnie Allen Warren, has asked Pierce County Superior Court to issue three subpoenas, according to a court document filed Sept. 13.

One subpoena request is for Rachel R. Bennett, a Tacoma resident who claims she has known District 3 candidate Warren for 15 years, and has said Warren does not live in the district. In a sworn declaration taken Sept. 12, and filed in Pierce County Superior Court, Bennett has contested the election, claiming, “Mr. Warren is not qualified to run for the office due to his failure to meet residency requirements.”

Bennett says Warren has lived in the 6300 block of South Fawcett with Tommie Frazier, a deacon at Mount Calvary Baptist Church. Frazier’s residence is located outside of District 3. According to Bennett, Warren has lived there since 2001, except for a period between August 2006 and March 2007. On the voter’s guide, Warren listed his residence as located in the 2300 block of South Ash St., which is located in District 3. In the declaration, Bennett adds, “I know Mr. Warren was residing in Mr. Frazier’s home in June 2007, when Mr. Warren claimed to reside in the 2300 block of South Ash Street in Tacoma.”

Powell has also requested the court issue a subpoena for Frazier because “he has knowledge about Mr. Warren’s residency during the applicable time period to date.”

Finally, Powell has requested a subpoena for Qwest, Inc., in order to learn more information about the physical location for the phone number Mr. Warren provided on his official declaration of candidacy as his residential phone number.

City charter requires candidates running for City Council positions that represent specific districts must live in the district for one year before filing, and for the entire term of office.

According to Powell, he was contacted by Bennet earlier this month with her claim that Warren did not live in District 3.

In an e-mail to Warren earlier this year, Bennett challenged Warren’s residency.

On Aug. 20, Warren responded, “My physical address is not the one listed in the voters pamphlet. I have been given a physical address that I couldn’t remember at the time of the application. My preference was my P.O. Box, but I forgot to request it. I have been homeless at times and occasionally I have stayed with Tommie, as you know, on a day to day basis. My brother, my sister both have physical property in Upper Tacoma. I hope that this personal information is what you were looking for.”

Bennett says it wasn’t, and has since contested the election.

In an e-mail response, she told Warren that whether his brother and sister owned property in District 3 was irrelevant to the issue of whether Warren lived in the district. “[It] does not address the questions of where you live now or on the date you filed your paperwork for Tacoma City Council,” she wrote. “Nor does it answer my question about you living on the 6300 block of Fawcett.”

“There were over 400 people in District 3 that utilized their power to vote,” Bennett told the Index, in an article published Sept. 11. “They voted for Ronnie, and he does not reside in District 3. To me, the people utilized their vote and put their faith in Ronnie to represent them on Tacoma City Council. I just don’t see how he can run.”

Warren told the Index that he has been homeless over the years, but has remained in District 3. “Of course it’s going to be weird when you have someone who is homeless, and not disclosing that during the campaign,” he explained. “Because I’m homeless and don’t have a place to lay my head, people can’t rationalize that.” He denied Bennett’s claim that he has lived with Frazier for nearly six years. He said he was now living at a residence in the 800 block of South 13th Street.

During the Primary Election, front-runner Lauren Walker received 1,932 votes. The race between Warren and Powell was close. Warren received 429 votes; Powell received 404 votes. A fourth challenger, Jack Pleasant, received 375 votes.
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To view a copy of the request for subpoena, click here:

To view a copy of the declaration from Rachel Bennett, click here:

Earlier this year, the Index ran a series of interviews with 12 individuals running for various spots on Tacoma City Council.

For the Index’s interview with Ronnie Allen Warren, click here:

For the Index’s interview with Donald Powell, click here: