The Investigators: Judge rules Louisiana state rep. candidate qualified for office

The Investigators: Judge rules Louisiana state rep. candidate qualified for office

OPELOUSAS, LA (WAFB) - A campaign battle for Louisiana state representative is stretching across parish lines.

Pam Burleigh, 39, wants to work at the State Capitol representing Opelousas, but the family of her opponent said she really lives in Baton Rouge. A judge ruled in Burleigh's favor Monday at the St. Landry Parish Courthouse, saying she is qualified to seek office.

"It's always a possibility if anyone wants to doubt you, they can," said Burleigh, D-Opelousas.

Linda Senegal took Burleigh to court saying she is unqualified because she bought a house last year in Baton Rouge and claimed a homestead exemption, or what typically means a primary residence, at a home on Parkoaks Drive. Senegal is the mother of the candidate running against Burleigh, Val Senegal.

"She lives in Baton Rouge, for whatever need be, with her children," said Linda Senegal, the plaintiff.

But Burleigh said the house is primarily for her 22-year-old son while he is in school at Southern University. As an engineer, Burleigh is also at Southern, working toward her PhD. However she said she spends most of her time at her Opelousas house.

Testimony Monday showed the home by the St. Landry Airport as her current mailing address and court records show Burleigh also listed the house on her qualifying form.

"Some nights I may stay there and some nights I stay here," said Burleigh. "It just depends on my work schedule and my lifestyle."

Following testimony, the judge said Senegal failed to show any evidence to disprove what Burleigh said.

"There was oral testimony only," said Grey Aycock, Burleigh's attorney. "She didn't present any evidence to prove her burden."

"She's bought a home in East Baton Rouge Parish, and she said she signed a homestead exemption because it's more convenient for her to go back and forth," said Senegal.

While that may be true, according to her testimony, Burleigh said she is still qualified to run out of St. Landry Parish.

When asked if she regrets claiming a homestead exemption for her Baton Rouge property, Burleigh told the Investigators, "I do not. The law states that you have to own and occupy. It doesn't say an amount of time or it doesn't say you have to be a registered voter in that parish as well."

The judge agreed, saying he found nothing illegal about Burleigh's activities. Burleigh said she will now move forward with her campaign.

Senegal can appeal the ruling if she likes.

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