Update 10/2/2018: The Bee has uncovered more information about TJ Cox’s Maryland home, and a follow-up to this story can be found here.
TJ Cox, the Fresno Democrat running for Congress against Hanford Republican David Valadao, owns a home in Bethesda, Maryland, that the state says is his principal residence.
Montgomery County property records show Terrance John Cox has paid about half of his annual property taxes on a three-bedroom, four-bathroom, Cape Cod-style home valued at $968,100 in the Washington, D.C., suburb. He bought the house for just over $1 million in 2016 and it has been claimed as his principal residence on state property tax records in each year since.
In the previous fiscal year, Cox received a county property tax credit of $692 on the home.
After the story published online, Andrew Godinich, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said the state of Maryland automatically marked the home as Cox’s principal residence, but it’s not.
In a statement released before the story published online, Cox campaign spokesman Phillip Vander Klay accused Valadao’s campaign of resorting to “misleading attacks.”
“TJ Cox proudly lives, works and raises his family here in the Central Valley, and has for the past 20 years,” Vander Klay said.
Vander Klay declined to answer if Cox owns a home in Maryland or to comment any further.
Godinich said Cox claims a Fresno home as his principal residence. Fresno County records indicate he and his wife own at least two homes in Fresno.
Cox said he had been living in Modesto as he attempted to challenge Rep. Jeff Denham in the 10th District. In March, Cox switched races into the 21st following the withdrawal of Valadao’s 2016 challenger, Emilio Huerta.
Cox owns a variety of businesses, including one that uses federal new market tax credits to boost economic development in lower income areas of the central San Joaquin Valley.
According to the Montgomery County website: “Eligibility for the majority of credits is determined by the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT). Specifically, SDAT determines whether a property is a “principal residence” (i.e., owner-occupied) which makes the property eligible for the County’s largest tax expenditures.”
The Maryland SDAT defines a principal residence as: “the one dwelling where the homeowner regularly resides and is the location designated by the owner for the legal purposes of voting, obtaining a driver’s license and filing income tax returns.”
The state defines a “dwelling” as “a house that is used as the principal residence of the homeowner and is actually occupied or expected to be actually occupied by the homeowner for more than 6 months of a 12-month period,” meaning Cox must live in this Maryland house more than half of the year in order to claim what he’s been claiming on his tax documents.
Cox is registered to vote in Fresno County. Godinich said he is not registered to vote in Maryland.
The Internal Revenue Service allows a person to have only one principal residence in the country, defined as “your main home.” The primary factor in determining “your main home” is whichever domicile you spend the most time in.
Valadao’s campaign has attempted to paint Cox as an outsider, noting that he does not live in the district he is running to represent.
Cox has sought to tie Valadao with President Donald Trump. According to political analytics website FiveThirtyEight, Valadao’s voting record is more closely aligned with Trump’s positions than any other member of the House of Representatives – nearly 99 percent. In 2016, Valadao’s district supported Democrat Hillary Clinton over Trump by 16 percentage points.
Both have received significant financial support from their national parties and congressional leadership as they vie for the 21st District seat, one long coveted by Democrats due to the party’s registration edge in the district.