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September 17, 2021

(Updated) Costello’s Residency in Question

In a joint, bipartisan press conference called this morning, challengers in House District 20, raised questions about the residency of incumbent Repubican Mia Costello. Michelle Scannell (D) and Tamara Von Gemmingen (R) said they both came to the independent conclusion, as they canvassed the neighborhood, that Costello did not in fact live in the house she claimed as her residence in the district when she filed for reelection.

~Mia Costello’s alleged residence on Yukon Drive in District 20

So, where is she? Her two challengers say her car is frequently spotted at another residence she owns at 2100 Esquire, which is outside the district, in House District 19.

“As a mother of two small little boys that are roughly the same age as Mia’s, I know that it is impossible for you to have two small children in the house and not have some kind of visual presence. Not to have your neighbors know that you live there. It’s impossible,” said Scannell.

“Her house, in her neighborhood, whenever I’ve gone door knocking, even back in January, people have always assumed that was an empty house, and was either for sale, or about to be for sale.”

Scannell went on to say that the only person in the neighborhood she’d come across who even knew Costello, was the neighbor across the street. The neighbors on either side of her alleged residence, and other families with children she’d see riding bikes in the area had no idea she was there. The driveway was intermittently plowed in the winter, but Scannell said she’d never seen tire tracks.

Von Gemmingen and Scannell sent a letter to Costello at her Esquire Loop address. “We sent it out yesterday,” Von Gemmingen explained, “by certified mail so we know she got it.”

The letter begins:

We are writing you this extraordinary letter because of grave concerns regarding your true place of residence. As candidates for State House District 20, voters expect us to actually live in the district, a requirement we do not believe you meet.

Click the link for the full Letter to Mia Costello.

There has been no response yet from Costello. Scannell and Von Gemmingen plan to file an official complaint with the division of elections on Monday.

If it is found that Costello cannot legally run, she will be the second Republican candidate to be disqualified from running for the House in November because of residency issues. House candidate Barbara Bachmeier filed to run in District 13, but the Division of Elections determined that she had not lived in that district for the amount of time legally required.

~Von Gemmingen and Scannell point to their own residences, both of which are inside the boundary of District 20

*************UPDATE By Linda Kellen Biegel**************

(I apologize for not doing this update yesterday, it’s been a busy weekend.)

After Jeanne Devon ran this story about the press conference, we decided that I would run by Costello’s Sand Lake house on Friday evening to do some investigation. Because my schedule prevented me from getting there until late, I parked across the street just to take a few pictures of the outside, including the newly erected Mia Costello campaign sign.

I figured I’d go back during the day to talk to her. While I was standing there, Costello pulled up into the driveway. When she saw me, she stopped the car and got out.

Costello — “What is your name?”

(Why did Monty Python and the Holy Grail run through my head at that awkward moment?)

Me — “Linda Kellen Biegel”

Costello — “Are you the one who has been watching my house for the last six months?”

Me — “Um, no, I’ve never been here before.”

After a few more questions and answers, Representative Costello eased up when she realized I wasn’t a stalker and was legitimately there to follow-up on a story (albeit late). She asked me if I wanted to come in and see her house to “prove that she lived there.”

Sure, why not?

Ms. Costello put her car in the garage, then walked around and opened the front door.

The following are the pictures I took while at Representative Mia Constello’s house.

This is the living room

The living room, part 2

A typical boy’s room

The kitchen

I also snapped anything I thought might be a little out of the ordinary:

Sorting on the floor

There were a number of things I saw that I didn’t photograph, plus there was the overall feel of the house. While I got the impression that perhaps not much time was spent there, that is not necessarily an indication that the house is not the primary residence. Plus, it did not come out until after the presser that the deadline for questioning residency had long since passed (it was in June). I’m not sure what Costello’s opponents thought they would accomplish.

UPDATE 8/6/12:

Michelle Scannell has issued a statement on her campaign website, which says in part:

Based on their findings –in spite of all the evidence to the contrary– it appears that Mia Costello lives in District 20. The Fourth Estate shined light where there was darkness and once again brought transparency to the Alaskan political scene; and for this all of us should be grateful.

I will of course continue to reach across party lines and will never stop believing in the disinfecting power of sunlight. From threats to our PFD to questions of fair oil taxation, taking risks and asking questions for the benefit of all Alaskans is now more important than ever before. And you can bet I’ll keep doing just that.



15 Responses to “(Updated) Costello’s Residency in Question”
  1. mike from iowa says:

    If she flies on a broom,you wouldn’t necessarily see tire tracks in the snow. Heck,how many have ever noticed Santa’s sleigh tracks or reindeer hoofprints near their chimneys?

  2. AKnerd says:

    Wait a sec….

    “Von Gemmingen and Scannell sent a letter to Costello at her Esquire Loop address”
    Mia’s facebook page shows a picture of her (at her yukon house) with her mailman after signing for the letter. You can clearly see the letter was addressed to the yukon house.

    They sent a certified letter “yesterday”, and they know she got it the next day? They don’t know until she signs for it, and that would take longer than a day to get a receipt.

    Fun fact (although I’m sure it was planned and maybe is trying to make a point):
    That house she’s planting a flag at is the house she says Mia doesn’t live in!

  3. AKblue says:

    Didn’t Romney claim to live in his son’s unfinished basement in order to qualify to run for governor of Massachusetts? Why can’t Mia live in an empty house?

  4. Zyxomma says:

    I’m curious to see how she responds. Von Gemmingen and Scannell, if you’re reading this, you needed a proofreader: it’s “to wit,” not “to whit,” something spell check couldn’t catch because whit is a word.

  5. birchsyrup says:

    KTVA has a great piece up about M.I.A., noting the extraordinary circumstances surrounding this bipartisan press conference, a unheard-of occurrence in Alaskan politics.–164967646.html

  6. zyggy says:

    whoopsie, that will be a tough one for to explain, as Ricky said, Lucy, you have splainin’ to go =)

  7. Andy says:

    There are no secrets about Pat Higgins or where he lives. You can go knock on the door of his long-time residence and his wife will answer, and some of the kids and grandkids might be there. Yes, Pat has taken a full-time, temporary job on a military base for a bit, like any number of Alaskans do from time to time. He served on the School Board for years while he was here in Anchorage full time, and he’ll absolutely be back.
    Yes, the absence is worth noting and asking about, and some people might legitimately feel he should step down, but there are no secrets and no deception here. Go ahead and voice a real opinion, but don’t try to suggest Pat’s being anything less than straight up.

    • John says:

      I agree Pat is not hiding anything. He has been very open about being in Kodiak for most of one year, and now in the Pacific Islands for most of a second year. Pat is doing nothing illegal. I didn’t mean to suggest he was. As far as I know, he remains a legal resident of Anchorage, so is entitled to remain on the school board, But Mia apparently owns two homes, and if she claims an intent to return to her vacant home and remain their indefinitely, she too might be doing nothing illegal. Questions need to be asked of both to see where their legitimate legal residence is.

  8. Alaska Lady says:

    Obviously these two novices have no clue that the Legislature is in session during the winter months and of course, an elected Representative will be in Juneau and not in her home district. From their own admission, it would appear that “stalking” charges could be reasonable applied to them – they certainly are filling the established criteria for a stalker.

    • luckycharms says:

      Um. I think they know when the legislature is in session. It’s surprising that her husband and children never left the house and sat in there with the lights off for three months. And I believe the session ended some time ago.

  9. John says:

    Yes this should be investigated, but to be fair someone should also question school board member Higgens.

  10. AKblue says:

    Oh, those pesky ethics-challenged Repubs.

    • All I Saw says:

      There are a few ethically challenged Democrats in Alaska too.


      The sooner Alaskans adopt a zero tolerance attitude for chicanery the better. Until then all we’ll get are hyperpartisan rhetoric wars and crap legislation out of Juneau.

      If the only thing you listen to in order to stay informed is talk radio… at the expense of the Rest of Alaska, then the cheaply-bought media here will continue to rule us. We are like lambs to the slaughter that way.

      I’m a bigger fan of the good old-fashioned grapevine which is most effective when used to name and shame… that’s ONE benefit of being a small population state, we should be able to clean house a lot quicker than most.

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