Three Orleans Parish legislative candidates to appeal rulings disqualifying them _lowres

Jason Hughes

Two candidates seeking to serve as state representatives for districts in New Orleans have been disqualified for failing to file state tax returns, though both cases are being appealed.

Jason Hughes, who is seeking to succeed state Rep. Austin Badon in District 100, is fighting to stay on the ballot for the Oct. 24 primary after a Civil District Court judge disqualified him for failing to file a tax return in 2010.

Ray Crawford was disqualified from his run to succeed state Rep. Wesley Bishop in District 99 after a judge ruled he failed to file a tax return in 2012.

A third candidate, Eustis Guillemet, was also disqualified after a judge found he did not meet the residency requirement to run against state Rep. Joe Bouie in District 97.

Hughes is appealing his disqualification by Civil District Judge Christopher Bruno, who ruled on a challenge brought against Hughes’ candidacy. That challenge came after another candidate in the race, Willie Jones, requested verification from the state that Hughes had filed taxes for the past five years and was told a return was on file for only one of those years, 2013.

All candidates for office have to certify that they filed their taxes, sought an extension or were not required to file taxes for the past five years.

The case against Hughes was brought by Derselene Nixon.

Bruno ruled on Wednesday that Hughes had filed for an extension for his 2014 taxes and that, because he was unemployed during 2011 and 2012, he was not required to file a tax return those years. However, he found that Hughes should have filed in 2010, when he was working for both the city and Southern University and made between $60,000 and $70,000.

Hughes told the court that he believed he had filed that return and was only informed that he hadn’t during an internal meeting with his campaign staff. In the ruling, Bruno noted that Hughes had testified he did not believe he had to file a return if he was owed money by the government. He also said that 2010 was a particularly hard year for him because he had been extremely depressed after the death of his grandparents, whom he had been taking care of.

Bruno ruled that under Internal Revenue Service regulations, Hughes should have filed a return that year, and he suggested that as director of federal regulations for New Orleans under Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Hughes should have known about that requirement.

“The fact that an individual may ultimately not owe taxes does not excuse his failure to file a tax return,” Bruno wrote in his decision.

Hughes said Friday he could not comment extensively on the case because it was still in litigation but that he had “nothing to hide.”

“Basically, it’s coming down to 2010 and coming down to a technicality with the affidavit, and this is being spearheaded by Willie Jones, who is a candidate in the race and has run unsuccessfully several times,” he said.

The race to succeed Badon, who is prevented by term limits from running again, is a crowded one. In addition to Hughes and Jones, three others — John Bagneris, Shawn Lockett and Alicia Plummer Clivens — are in the race. All the candidates for the seat, which represents New Orleans East, are Democrats.

A notice of appeal has also been filed in Crawford’s case. In that case, brought by Dionisha and Derrick Graham, records from the Louisiana Department of Revenue showed Crawford did not file a tax return in 2012, Civil District Court Judge Regina Woods ruled on Tuesday.

While Woods’ ruling notes that Crawford said he had filed a return and received a $17 refund, it also notes he did not present evidence of that in court. Crawford’s tax preparer also testified that the taxes had been filed but was unable to provide transcripts showing that was the case.

In previous cases, the courts have ruled that taxes must be filed and a candidate’s belief that they had been filed is not enough to keep them from being disqualified, Woods wrote.

Another suit brought by the Grahams attempted to disqualify another District 99 candidate, Markeita Prevost, one of a pair of sisters running in adjoining districts, but it was struck down by Civil District Judge Paulette Irons. Jimmy Harris, an aide to U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, is also running for the seat in District 99.

In another case, Guillemet’s candidacy in District 97 was challenged by Wayne Wright and Lemona Chandler. Irons ruled he was not qualified to seek that seat because he doesn’t live in the district.

During a hearing on the matter, Guillemet told the court he had lived in the district before retiring in 2007 and that he listed his childhood home as his address on his qualifying paperwork.

In the same suit, Wright and Chandler also challenged the residency of MissKeith Prevost, Markeita Prevost’s sister, on residency grounds but were denied. She will be the only challenger facing Bouie in the election.

Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.