Will Trump get involved in the 8th District congressional race?

EVANSVILLE — His campaign’s address is a mailbox at Staples in Evansville, and there are questions about his residency — but if the buzz around Dominick Kavanaugh is true, the 28-year-old could become an instant contender for a seat in Congress.

Kavanaugh’s Linkedin profile says he was a “media affairs coordinator” for eight months in 2020 for then-President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign. His other claimed work experiences: intern for four months in 2018 in the press office at Trump’s White House and a three-month internship in 2017 in the U.S. State Department’s Office of the White House Liaison.

There’s one more: “Campus Ambassador” for Trump’s 2016 campaign in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A 2016 story in Baton Rouge-based 225 Magazine called Kavanaugh “the LSU chairman for the Donald Trump campaign” and “one of the first Trump supporters among active LSU Republicans.”

More: Bucshon built a very specific profile in Congress. He says he won’t seek re-election.

Now Republican activists are asking a question about Kavanaugh, one he apparently isn’t discouraging:

With Kavanaugh among seven GOP candidates — so far — seeking a House seat opened by 8th District Rep. Larry Bucshon’s unexpected decision to retire, and with Trump eager to have supporters in Congress, could the former president actually endorse Kavanaugh?

“That’s what he (Kavanaugh) has suggested,” said Vanderburgh County GOP Chairman Mike Duckworth. “I think with Trump’s political backing, I think people would probably look at him a lot closer.”

Kavanaugh didn’t return messages for this story, but his website makes his affinity for Trump clear.

“When I am elected to congress I will stand with President Trump to clean up the mess Joe Biden has created,” says a “note” by Kavanaugh. “On day one I will work to finish President Trump’s wall and deport the millions of illegals who have crossed the border in the last three years.”

The site prominently features photos of Kavanaugh shaking Trump’s hand at a crowded event outside the White House and standing beside a seated Trump in what appears to be the Oval Office.

More: With Bucshon out, the big question is: Who will replace him?

Questions

Duckworth also said a few of the other Republican county chairs in the 21-county 8th District are “trying to substantiate what he’s (Kavanaugh) saying about his connection to Trump.”

Duckworth has questions about Kavanaugh’s residency, too.

The 28-year-old candidate’s Linkedin profile lists several short stints in political and civil engineering jobs in Washington, D.C., Louisiana and Florida, albeit with brief gaps and one gap of more than a year. The most recent job, which he began in September, is in D.C.

Kavanaugh’s Statement of Organization filed with the Federal Election Commission on Monday of this week — the same document that lists a mailbox at Staples’ address as the campaign’s address — lists two residents at the same Alpharetta, Georgia, address as his treasurer and assistant treasurer and a man with a D.C. address as his attorney-in-fact. The campaign’s bank is in Atlanta.

But while Kavanaugh’s adult work history appears to be outside the 8th District, his voting history dates back to registration in Warrick County in 2014. Kavanaugh then registered in Knox County, voting there in 2018, 2020 and 2022. On January 24 — a little more than two weeks ago — he switched his voter registration from Knox to Vigo County. He now has a Terre Haute, Indiana, address.

Kavanaugh’s Linkedin profile shows him working in Washington, D.C. at the same time he voted in Knox County in 2020 and working in Orlando, Florida in 2022, when he again voted in Knox County.

What does the law say?

The U.S. Constitution requires that members of Congress reside in the state they represent — not their districts — when the election is held. A candidate for Congress in the 8th District could theoretically — if voters didn’t mind — reside in faraway corners of the Hoosier State.

While some of the 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives live outside the districts they represent, Kavanaugh’s latest address is inside the boundaries of the district.

More: Campaigning for an 8th District congressional seat from Japan? Yep

He appears to have other history in the district, too.

Kavanaugh’s campaign material states that he was “born in Evansville and raised in Vincennes” and that he is a graduate of Castle High School in Newburgh. Kavanaugh’s name does appear in Courier & Press local sports agate reports in 2008 and 2012.

The 2016 225 Magazine story describes Kavanaugh as “an engineering major from Indiana.”

Kavanaugh ‘knows the district’

Randy Gentry, longtime chairman of the Vigo County Republican Party, signed a waiver that allowed Kavanaugh to run for Congress. But it wasn’t a question of his residency.

It was necessary because Indiana’s “two-primaries law” requires that a candidate’s two most recent votes in Indiana primary elections must have been cast in primaries held by the party he or she seeks to represent. Kavanaugh voted in a Republican primary in Knox County in 2018 — without voting in that year’s general election — but did not vote again in a primary election.

More: Controversial law is at heart of threat to Evansville mayoral candidates’ eligibility

Gentry isn’t bothered by the fact that Kavanaugh’s work history shows him working in Washington, D.C. and in other places out of state when he was casting ballots back in Indiana.

It’s not uncommon, said Gentry, a former vice chairman of the 8th District GOP.

“I’ll give you a perfect example,” he said. “I spent four years in Washington, and I was the county (Republican) chair. I still maintained my residence in Terre Haute, so residence has been something that’s been debated for a long time. You can go back and look at the case law and what determines where someone’s residence is.”

Gentry pointed to the case of Vigo County Treasurer Josie Swalls-Thompson, who won election in 2020 despite having a Florida driver’s license and voting in a Florida election just two years earlier.

But Swalls-Thompson was facing a different requirement — that she had to have lived in the county for at least one year before the election. She survived a challenge to her election by providing a court with Indiana auto titles and license plates for her vehicles and showing that she had a safe deposit box in Terre Haute and other evidence of residence.

Gentry, who also held jobs in the Trump administration, said Kavanaugh “knows the district.”

“(He) has resided in Vanderburgh, Warrick, Knox, now Vigo County,” Gentry said. “If you would do like a search across the country with members of Congress, he’s probably spent more time in his district than some members of Congress that are currently elected.”

Friday noon is the deadline for candidates to file their candidacy for Congress. Primary elections are May 7.


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