Although mayoral candidate Brent Warr meets the legal requirements to run in the upcoming city elections, one question keeps popping up around town: Where does Brent Warr live?
Political fliers featuring Warr's family say he moved to Gulfport in 1964. But when a reporter recently asked about the date he moved to the city, the 41-year-old Warr said, "I bought my home in Gulfport in 2003."
Political observers, voters and some of Warr's opponents wonder whether he is qualified to run the second-largest city in the state because he lived in Biloxi for years. Some people have said Warr moved to Gulfport to run for mayor and plans to move back to Biloxi if he loses the race.
Warr fired back Thursday during an interview with The Sun Herald. He adamantly denies allegations that he moved simply to qualify as a candidate and said he has no plans to move back to his house in Biloxi.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"My whole life is in Gulfport," he said. "The issue is not how long I lived in Biloxi or how long I lived in Gulfport. The issue is who's the right man for the job? How much do you need to be a part of a city before you're qualified to run for mayor?"
Warr said he had heard some opponents planned to contest his candidacy, but none showed up Monday when the Republican Executive Committee in Gulfport certified him. He said three of his opponents are making an issue of his residency.
"This is an issue because it's been made an issue," he said. "The reality of the question is that I qualify by every standard they can come up with, that anyone can come up with . . . I am qualified as a candidate."
Whispers of Warr's residency were first heard in November, when he kicked off his campaign with billboards that feature three slogans: "Imagine better cooperation," "Imagine better leadership," and "Imagine a better Gulfport."
The residency issue came to a head earlier this week when another candidate, Steve Dickerson, dropped off a packet at the newspaper. The packet contains pictures taken in October and this month of Warr's boarded-up Beach Boulevard house, which the Harrison County Tax Assessor's Office assessed at $588,608, and an anonymous letter accusing him of moving to Gulfport for the election. Dickerson said he received the anonymous packet in the mail.
The packet also has documents from the tax office listing properties in Warr's name and the Harrison County Circuit Clerk's Office listing his address on his voter registration file.
David Blount with the Secretary of State Office said candidates must be a registered voter of the state in the municipality of the office for which the candidate seeks election. There is no set amount of time a candidate must live in a city in order to qualify.
Warr bought his house on Beach Boulevard in February 2003 and said he decided to run for mayor in the spring of 2004. He and his family moved into a house in Gulfport that his grandmother owns in late June 2004, which is also when he registered to vote. He said the home on the beach needs work before they can move in.
The person who gathered the information in the packet also questioned the school where Warr's children attend. Warr, in his flier, says his daughter, who is in third grade, has attended Gulfport schools since she became school age.
While he was living in Biloxi at that time, Warr said he asked Superintendent Carlos Hicks if his daughter could attend school in Gulfport because he and his wife were looking for a house there. Warr said his daughter was allowed to as long as he and his wife were looking for a house, but was warned he would have to take her out if he didn't buy in the city.
TimelineBrent Warr gave The Sun Herald a timeline of events that he believes will satisfy voters' curiosity regarding his residency:-- February 2003 --- Warr buys house on Beach Boulevard.-- Spring 2004 --- Warr is approached by a friend about running for mayor and he decides to throw his hat in the ring.-- June 2004 --- Warr and his family move to a house on Woodglen Drive owned by his grandmother because the house on Beach Boulevard needs to be renovated.-- June 2004 --- Warr registers to vote in Gulfport.-- November 2004 --- Warr files his qualifying papers and kicks off mayoral campaign.-- March 2005 --- The Republican Executive Committee in Gulfport qualifies Warr as a candidate in the upcoming city elections.