Suit filed to disqualify surprise Democrat in Lafayette mayor-president race

Priscilla Gonzalez campaign image
Priscilla Gonzalez, who says she has lived in Lafayette since late 2020, plans to fight a challenge to her qualification for mayor-president. A hearing is set for Friday at 4 p.m. Image courtesy Priscilla Gonzalez for mayor-president Facebook page

A lawsuit challenging the qualification of Priscilla Gonzalez in the race for Lafayette’s mayor-president was filed Wednesday morning by a local good government activist. The suit claims Gonzalez failed to meet the residency requirements of Lafayette’s Home Rule Charter and that she falsely certified she had filed federal and state income tax returns over the past five years. 

On Aug. 10, the final day of qualifying for the Oct. 14 election, Gonzalez registered to vote in Louisiana and signed qualification papers to run as a Democrat, joining a field of three Republicans, incumbent Mayor-President Josh Guillory, Jan Swift and Monique Blanco Boulet. 

Gonzalez, a political unknown in Lafayette who previously ran for mayor of Corpus Christi, cuts an unusual profile for a mayoral candidate. A self-described “leftist,” she’s taken flack for brandishing campaign swag supporting Republican gubernatorial frontrunner Jeff Landry, a bogeyman of Louisiana progressives and Democrats. 

Her candidacy is being challenged on the grounds that she does not meet the one-year residency and domiciliary requirements of Lafayette’s Home Rule Charter, which provides that candidates have been “legally domiciled within the parish for at least one (1) year immediately preceding the time established by law for qualifying for office.” 

Gonzalez says she is “up for the challenge.” 

“They can bring anything they want against me. They just don’t know my history,” she says. “They don’t know I actually sue people for a living.

“I have a case in federal court right now, and there’s nothing more that I love than going to court. … This is fun for me. This is my extracurricular activity,” Gonzalez adds, explaining that she works on a contract basis for personal injury lawyers and people who have been wrongfully terminated. Gonzalez, who has a degree in political science, says she did coursework to become a paralegal but did not complete the certification process. She is not an attorney. 

Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court Louis Perret told the Acadiana Advocate that when Gonzalez first arrived at the courthouse to qualify as a candidate she was not registered to vote in Louisiana and did not have a valid Louisiana driver’s license. According to the lawsuit, her driver’s license and vehicle were still registered to Texas at that time; she ran for mayor of Corpus Christi in 2020.

Gonzalez told the paper she left the courthouse and obtained a Louisiana driver’s license (she actually got a REAL ID, according to court testimony on Aug. 18), registered to vote and returned to Perret’s office to qualify. On the notice of candidacy qualifying form, where candidates must attest that they are a duly qualified elector of Lafayette Parish, the word “NONE” is written in next to Parish, and the line for precinct identification is left blank. (Perret clarified to The Current that “NONE” was written in by his office on instruction from the secretary of state because her registration was still in the queue, but she was later given a precinct.)

Citing precedent, the suit asserts that domicile consists of two elements: actual residence and the intent to remain in that place. Gonzalez told the Acadiana Advocate she delayed her voter registration because she was undecided about whether she would return to Corpus Christi or remain in Lafayette. The 39-year-old ran for mayor of Corpus Christi in November 2020, the last time records show her voting in that state and the same month she says she moved to Lafayette to care for her mother and stepfather who live in Lafayette. Her elderly father remains in Corpus Christi, Gonzalez said. 

“Either you have remained here with the intent to make Lafayette your permanent home for the past 12 months or not,” says attorney Gary McGoffin, who is representing Aimee Boyd Robinson, the suit’s petitioner. 

Disclosure: McGoffin represents The Current in public records matters.

Gonzalez falsely claimed on qualifying papers that she had filed her federal and state income tax returns for the past five years, according to the suit, an allegation McGoffin says is supported by information from the Louisiana Department of Revenue, which confirmed it has no record of her ever filing tax returns in the state. 

Gonzales maintains she filed her federal income tax return for 2022 and is “pretty sure there is an extension” for her Louisiana tax return. 

Her surprise entry is reminiscent of the M-P race four years ago, when Carlos Harvin entered the race at the 11th hour as the only Democrat in a field of Republicans and one no-party candidate. Harvin appeared at campaign events and in campaign materials with Guillory; upon Guillory’s election, he created a new position, chief of minority affairs, and appointed Harvin to the post

Gonzalez denied to The Current and to The Acadiana Advocate the existence of any such quid pro quo this time around and says no candidate in the race sought her out to run as a Democrat.  

The lawsuit seeks to depose Gonzalez Friday, Aug. 18, at 1:30 p.m. A hearing on the matter was set by District Judge Valerie Gotch Garrett for 4 p.m. Friday. 

“The reason she is doing it doesn’t matter,” attorney McGoffin tells The Current. “The question is did she qualify.” McGoffin says he supports Blanco Boulet for mayor-president, and Robinson says she is undecided about her support. 

“My concern is a fair election, without interference from folks who want to ‘pull votes,’” Robinson tells The Current. “We stop corrupt politicians at qualifying. If they lie under penalty of perjury, they have no business being in office.”