Elizabeth Heng, the Republican challenging Democrat Jim Costa in California’s 16th Congressional District, appears to have violated several tax and election laws stemming from a Washington, D.C., property she claimed as her principal residence, a review of various public documents shows.
Washington property records show Heng claimed a condominium as her principal residence despite living and actively campaigning in Fresno. She also collected rent on the property while receiving a tax credit meant for permanent residents and improperly registered to vote in California while technically claiming residency more than 3,000 miles away.
Prior to her candidacy, Heng spent roughly six years working as a congressional staffer, most notably on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The property records show Heng claimed a homestead tax deduction on the condo – valued at nearly $600,000. This credit cut $623.48 off of her 2018 bill.
The District of Columbia requires anyone claiming a homestead credit to live in the dwelling for at least half of the year.
According to her House candidacy financial disclosure form, filed on May 6, she also received between $5,001 and $15,000 in income from renting the Washington condo out. Rental properties do not qualify for homestead tax credits.
On Oct. 16, the deduction was removed from the property, and a corrected bill shows she owes about $1,500 in 2017-18 taxes – roughly the amount credited from two years of previous homestead exemptions plus interest and late fees.
It is unclear how the correction came about.
When asked for clarification on the documents, Heng campaign spokesman Matt Langston said the candidate “has grown up in the Fresno area, votes in the Fresno area, and only claims Fresno as her home.”
Heng completed a California voter registration form on Feb. 14, state records show, despite still claiming principal residency in Washington, D.C. The California Secretary of State’s office requires that anyone registering to vote in California be a resident of the state.
On Sept. 20, Heng filed a homestead declaration with the state of California claiming a Fresno home owned by her and her mother as her principal residence.
The U.S. Constitution requires that anyone who is to serve in Congress must be an inhabitant of the district’s state at the time of the election.
Costa’s campaign has called Heng’s time in Washington into question, running a series of ads attacking her for missing various elections while away.
Earlier this year, in apparent response to Costa’s claims, she released a TV ad entitled “Home.” It showed Heng outside of her Fresno elementary, middle and high schools, while also claiming Costa has accomplished little in his 40 years of public service – one of Heng’s most common campaign attacks.