Wells drops out of Dist. 39 race following challenge to eligibility

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SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – One of three candidates challenging incumbent Louisiana State Senator Greg. Tarver in the race for the District 39 seat has dropped out of the running, days after Tarver filed suits against two of them claiming they don’t live in the district.

Tarver filed the lawsuits earlier this week against Shreveport attorney Shante Wells and State Representative Barbara Norton, challenging their eligibility for candidacy based on their residency. Both Democrats were seeking to challenge Tarver in October 12 primary. Republican Jim Slagle is also running.

Wells confirmed to KTAL NBC 6 News early Thursday afternoon that he is withdrawing from the race because he says he does not want to put his sick and elderly grandmother or his children through the stress of the trial that would result from the lawsuit.

“After much prayer and discussion about this matter with my family, I’ve decided to withdraw my candidacy for the District 39 seat and will not seek it for this election term,” Wells said. “The lawsuit has been filed and I believe that we would be successful. However, in order to prevail, I didn’t want to subject my elderly 85-year-old grandmother who I take care of as well as my children through cross-examination by Greg Tarver’s lawyer. I will not force them to take the witness stand.”

However, Wells added, “this does not mean that the fight for District 39 is over.”

Under Louisiana election laws, a hearing must be heard by a judge within four days of the suit being filed. There is no word yet on whether the hearing scheduled for Wells’ case set for this coming Monday will take place as scheduled.

Tarver released this statement in response to Well’s comments Thursday:

This is the 1st and last time I will acknowledge or respond to Mr. Wells immature and disrespectful behavior in regards to name-calling and intentionally deceiving the people. First and foremost, I take offense to being called a bully, particularly when my whole life has been devoted to serving and helping people, especially the elderly. Secondly, let the records show and anyone can read for themselves that neither me nor my lawyer subpoenaed Mr. Wells 85-year-old grandmother or children. I’m terribly disappointed to the levels that he will stoop to deceive the people in an attempt to divert their attention from the real issue.

The state law indicates that an individual running for office has to be domiciled one year prior to qualifying for the district in which they’re seeking. Mr. Wells has pulled out of the race for Senate District 39 because he is aware of the fact that he domiciled at 2810 Creswell in District 37.  I feel that with the overwhelming evidence that we have to prove our case, justice would have prevailed on Monday. Even though I’m terribly disappointed in a person whom I considered a friend and have helped tremendously, I have no harsh feelings towards Mr. Wells and hold nothing against him.

Sen. Greg Tarver, La. Dist. 39

Tarver filed suit against Norton on Friday. On Thursday, Norton held a news conference to announce that she has asked District Attorney Charles Stewart to “institute an action or investigate the candidacy of Gregory Tarver.” In a letter to Stewart, a copy of which was distributed to local media, Norton claims “It is my information and belief that Mr. Gregory Tarver does not meet the requirement for the office for which he seeks pursuant to the Louisiana Election Code (Title 18) and other applicable Louisiana Laws.”

In the letter, Norton went on to ask the DA again to “investigate and file a lawsuit in this matter within the applicable timelines provided by law,” or recuse his office in a timely manner. “The DA has agreed to look at this concern. I believe it is fair for all of the Shreveport citizens to know what all of us are doing and not just one person,” said State Representative Barbara Norton.

It’s not clear whether Stewart has any jurisdiction to investigate or file any complaints in connection with candidate eligibility under Louisiana election laws.

Norton said Thursday that she hoped to hear back from Stewart before Friday’s hearing, but that she let him know she is willing to testify under the penalty perjury that she lives at the address provided when she qualified to run for the District 39 seat, which is in the district.

Tarver first served in the State Senate representing District 39 in 1984 and went on to serve for 20 years. He then was elected again in 2012.

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