The Louisiana Ethics Administration on Friday began drawing up papers objecting to the political candidacy of Scarlett Alaniz, who a day earlier signed up to challenge Jefferson Parish District 4 Councilman Ben Zahn’s re-election bid in the Oct. 24 primary.
Alaniz, a 45-year-old Republican from Kenner, signed up to run against first-term incumbent Zahn despite owing $720 worth of fines to the ethics administration, which is grounds to disqualify her, agency director Kathleen Allen said.
The next step is for the ethics administration to file suit against Alaniz’s candidacy in the 24th Judicial District Court in Gretna. If Alaniz is disqualified from the District 4 Parish Council race, Zahn would win a second four-year term unopposed.
Alaniz can appeal any ruling unfavorable to her. She didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment Friday.
Meanwhile, in a statement Friday, Zahn — who is also from Kenner — said, “It is not for me to say if another candidate meets the criteria required for qualification. I trust the Ethics (Administration) professionals to do what is right and just.
“All I can do is make sure that I comply with every law. I am campaigning for re-election unless otherwise notified that I no longer have a challenger.”
Once the liaison to the Hispanic community in former Mayor Phil Capitano’s administration, Alaniz has twice run unsuccessfully for a seat on the Kenner City Council. The most recent attempt occurred last year, when she finished third in a three-candidate field with only 8 percent of the vote. Current at-large Division B Kenner City Councilman Keith Conley ultimately won.
In the lead-up to that race, Alaniz filed two campaign finance disclosure reports late. She was fined $420 for one of the late filings and $300 for the other.
She hasn’t paid off either fine, records show.
When Alaniz signed up to challenge Zahn on Thursday, the last of three days of qualifying for the October elections, she swore in an affidavit that she did “not owe any outstanding fines, fees, or penalties” to the ethics administration.
Yet that wasn’t the case, and campaign regulations state that candidates for office can be disqualified from races for providing affidavits that contain incorrect information when they sign up to run.
Candidates who join races despite having outstanding fines can avoid problems if they withdraw, pay off what they owe and sign up again before the qualifying window closes. But Alaniz didn’t do that.
Aside from her role with Capitano’s administration, Alaniz has been a sales account executive at Clear Channel Media New Orleans as well as the co-host of local Hispanic television show “De Todo Un Poco.”