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Questions have persisted over the years about whether or not Steven Campo, the Democratic candidate for House District 31, is a resident of North Kingstown. Campoâ€™s campaign literature states that he is and that he owns a small business here. His campaign website claims â€śSteve has lived in and built his business in North Kingstown for over 25 years. He is a local residentâ€¦â€ť (Full disclosure: I have financially supported Campoâ€™s previous campaigns.)
North Kingstownâ€™s list of voters shows that Steven A. Campo lives at 23 Austin Road. This small bungalow had been the site of the â€śColor Bomb Tattoo Parlorâ€ť and, according to neighbors, was until recently rented out to an out-of-state crew for a Verizon subcontractor. There are still large spools of wire and cable on the property.
Campo ran twice and served one term on the North Kingstown Town Council. Two years ago he lost the Democrat primary to run for the State Senate seat being vacated by East Greenwichâ€™s Michael Lenihan. In all three elections Campo claimed the Austin Road address as his home.
During his second run for town council, Mark Zaccaria, then chairman of the NKGOP, requested a Board of Canvassers hearing on Campoâ€™s residency. Minutes of a hearing on July 19, 2004 show that Campo stated that he had registered to vote in North Kingstown in 1988 and had voted in every election since then.
Carole Byers, clerk of the BoC, recalled that Campo said he had lived in the rear of the commercial strip he owns on Post Road until he renovated the house at 23 Austin Road. She added that he presented bank statements with that address as proof of residency. Under Rhode Island election laws, this is acceptable proof.
The general laws state â€śAll objections [to a personâ€™s candidacy] shall be filed in the office of the secretary of state or of the local board, as the case may be, by four o'clock (4:00) p.m. on the next business day after the last day fixed for filing nomination papers in the appropriate officeâ€¦â€ť No complaint was filed in connection with Campoâ€™s candidacy in this coming election.
Recently, this newspaper was provided with photographs and video surveillance that indicate that Steven Campo resides at the Greenwich Place apartments in West Warwick. His automobile was photographed there in the early morning hours of August 29th while no vehicles are visible in photos taken at 23 Austin Road at approximately the same time. The video follows Campoâ€™s car as it turns into the Greenwich Place complex and parks there.
The Secretary of Stateâ€™s website lists 6145 Post Road, North Kingstown as the address for Campoâ€™s business, Rhode Island Green, Inc. However, the address of the corporationâ€™s registered agent, Steven Anthony Campo, is 75 Sherman Avenue in North Providence.
When asked to respond to these questions, candidate Campo stated emphatically that he lives at 23 Austin Road and has for many years. He denied owning, renting or leasing a residency elsewhere in Rhode Island. Further, he has utility bills and property tax receipts that show he lives in North Kingstown.
The North Providence address listed on the Secretary of Stateâ€™s website goes back to when he incorporated his company and is his motherâ€™s address where he lived at the time. Campo added that he visits his elderly mother at least once a week and sometimes spends the night there. In fact, he said, before endorsing him the Democrat Town Committee asked him to forego the weekly visits to his mother.
Campo said that he was shocked that his opponent Doreen Costa would spend the time and money to have him followed. â€śTaking pictures of my car somewhere else on one night proves nothing about where I liveâ€ť, he added.
Campo stated that Costa had claimed on a radio talk show that he had a car with Florida license plates. â€śAll of my vehicles are registered in Rhode Islandâ€ť, he said, â€śand anyone is free to come by and check for themselves.â€ť
When asked to comment, incumbent Republican Representative Doreen Costa said, â€śUnlike my opponent, I live in District 31 and am proud to represent the citizens of North Kingstown and Exeter.â€ť
It should be noted that the only political yard sign in front of 23 Austin Road belongs to a candidate for town council.
Richard August is a North Kingstown resident and a regular contributor to the Standard Times. He served for six years on North Kingstownâ€™s Audit Committee and was its chairman for the last two. His opinions are his own.