ST. PETE BEACH — A novice politician, contributor to the arts and part-time Pinellas County resident became a poster child this week for the nationwide debate over voter fraud.
Wendy W. Rosen, whose primary residence is in Maryland, was a Democratic congressional candidate in that state until her party forced her to resign Monday, saying she had illegally voted in Maryland and Florida.
Rosen, 57, cast votes in both states during the 2006 general election and the 2008 presidential primaries, the Maryland Democratic Party announced. After receiving a tip, the party verified Rosen's record through elections authorities.
"We believe this is a clear violation of Maryland law and urge the appropriate office to conduct a full investigation," state party chair Yvette Lewis said.
Contacted at her Cockeysville, Md., home, Rosen declined to comment on her voting patterns, citing possible legal ramifications. But she said she registered to vote in St. Pete Beach several years ago to support a friend, gallery owner Nancy Markoe, who successfully ran for City Council in 2005 during highly contested debates over building heights and growth.
Rosen and her husband, Steven, bought a 3,466-square-foot home in St. Pete Beach in 2003, which is now assessed for tax purposes at $511,574 and has no homestead exemption.
Rosen said the couple spends part of the year in Florida, but how much varies from year to year.
"This year, we were only there one week because I was running 10 long months on this," she said.
In April, she won the Democratic primary in Maryland's heavily Republican 1st District.
Rosen publishes two nationwide arts magazines based in Baltimore, Niche and AmericanStyle, and said she was moved to run for Congress after seeing artists struggling with hard times.
"I work with artisans, glass blowers, jewelers, potters and people making things all over the country," she said. "I watched 1,000 small business go under during the recession."
She believes the government could help in several ways, like selling only U.S. arts and crafts in national parks, she said.
In St. Petersburg, she serves on the board of the Florida Craftsmen Gallery.
Voter ID laws, voter roll purges and early-voting rules have been a major political issue across the country, as Republicans say they want to eliminate voter fraud and Democrats claim that fraud is rare and that Republican legislatures are suppressing minorities, students and other groups that tend to favor Democrats.
Maryland Republicans seized the opportunity Rosen's resignation brought Monday to bring up the issue again.
"If the Maryland Democrat Party is willing to push one of its own candidates out of the race due to voter fraud, I am sure this means they will join us in an effort to purge the rolls across Maryland of illegal immigrants, the deceased and those otherwise unqualified to vote," state GOP executive director David Ferguson told the Washington Post.
Rosen would not discuss where she voted or in which elections, but said that voter fraud is not a pervasive problem.
Republican legislatures are "intent on intimidation," she said. "If people believe they are going to be turned away, they won't go vote."
Rosen is registered to vote in Pinellas County. Only legal Florida residents may register and must verify residency on the application, said Nancy Whitlock, spokeswoman for the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office.
If the office finds that a voter knowingly maintained registration in two places, she said, the supervisor would pass that information along to prosecutors.