GONZALES — Daniel Melancon, one of three candidates for Ascension Parish president, is accusing candidate Kathryn Goppelt of having offered to pay his candidate filing fee of $225 if he would drop out of the race. He refused.
Goppelt denies the accusation.
Goppelt and Melancon are challenging incumbent Tommy Martinez in the Oct. 22 primary election. Goppelt is a Republican, Melancon is listed in his qualifying papers as having no party, and Martinez is listed as an “other party” candidate.
Melancon said he and Goppelt met for breakfast on Sept. 9 at her invitation.
A photo of the two meeting at CarliCo Café in Gonzales was posted on the Ascension Parish Political Rumors Facebook page at 10:24 a.m. Wednesday. Goppelt and Melancon said they do not have access to Facebook and neither had seen the photo.
“I didn’t know anyone had a camera,” Melancon said, adding that he had never met Goppelt before the breakfast meeting.
On Thursday afternoon, Melancon walked into The Advocate’s River parishes bureau, saying “Garney told me y’all wanted to talk to me.”
Parish Recreation Director Garney Gautreau confirmed he stopped by Melancon’s house Thursday and told the candidate that “a reporter wants to talk to you.”
“Somebody told me a reporter was looking for him, so that’s why I talked to him,” Gautreau said in a telephone interview Thursday. Gautreau said he and Melancon are friends.
Gautreau refused to say who told him “a reporter was looking for” Melancon.
The Advocate did leave a message on Melancon’s telephone answering system on Wednesday, but Melancon said he did not check his messages.
Goppelt said Thursday she invited Melancon to the meeting to find out why he was in the race.
“I asked if he would be willing to join me because we have the same goal … for the people to have a choice for parish president,” she said. “We’re on the same side.”
Goppelt characterized the meeting as “a private conservation … in a public place” and said that at the end of the meeting she “wished him well.”
“I said, ‘Great, I’ll work hard and you work hard,” she said.
Melancon said he turned down her request to drop out of the race because “I have too much at stake.”
Melancon, 72, has been driving across the parish with a large campaign sign in the back of his truck and announcing his campaign over a speaker system mounted to the roof of his truck cab. He said he has spent at least $500 on his campaign.
Melancon, who said he worked for Ascension Parish government as a utility operator for 15 years, said he is unhappy with Martinez’s inattention to major drainage issues during the last four years.
Goppelt said she is concerned with preventing high-density development in the parish and preserving “what’s left of our rural character.”