Personalities Emerge In Quiet Treasurer’s Race


It’s completely possible that whoever does win the expected runoff this fall for state treasurer will spend less than $1 million during the primary. That translates into an affordable victory for some lucky Louisiana politician.

Few voters are probably even aware that a race for treasurer is being waged. Maybe it’s because U.S. Sen. John Kennedy previously held the office for 17 years and failed to generate any serious opposition. To be certain, it is a title that is won and not inherited. And that means competitive campaigning and retail political marketing — a pair of practices that are never boring in the Bayou State.

Still, it’s a low-dollar affair so far, with two legislators personally loaning their campaigns big money. Rep. Julie Stokes of Kenner has $250,000 at stake and Rep. John Schroder of Covington has $184,000 worth of skin in the game. An important question moving forward is whether both will be willing to spend that loot.

If not, and even if they do, that could make earned media — or unpaid appearances or references in newspapers, online and on TV — all the more important in this contest. The lack of funding across the field could likewise create fewer than usual statewide media buys. The candidates may instead choose to focus largely on regional advertising, like in New Orleans, where a high-profile mayoral race will turn out voters.

While the early stages of this election have been quiet, there has been an interesting development. The four main contenders are already showcasing their various personalities and giving us hints of the exchanges to come. That much was evident recently during what was the first forum of the election cycle for most of the declared candidates.

Stokes, for example, introduced herself to the Louisiana Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives as a candidate with “humble” roots. She talked about having a blue-collar father and a stay-at-home mother. “We lived in a 1,000 square foot home and I went to public school,” she said.

But more strikingly, she offered to bring a new look and feel to the office of treasurer, which Kennedy molded into an unofficial watchdog post over the years. Stokes, who endorsed former Congressman Charles Boustany over Kennedy in last year’s Senate race, said she wanted to move away from “insincere politics” and “political answers to practical questions.” She described her background as a CPA as her most valuable asset. “The state of Louisiana has never had a CPA managing its money. Just simmer on that for a minute,” she said, adding, “If Louisiana were a private company, the CEO, CFO and most of the management for this financial disaster would have been let go a long time ago.”

After he talked about his military service, a serious injury suffered while on duty and how his own family overcame economic hardships, Schroder told the audience that, if elected, the first thing he would do is create a website where citizens could learn where “every dime” of taxpayer money is spent. Schroder added that the next treasurer must be an “advocate for conservative policies” while in office and even Kennedy-like. “John Kennedy has changed the role of this office in a major way,” Schroder said. “The people of Louisiana have come to appreciate someone who is unwavering and someone who can say, ‘No, we can’t do that.’”

Sen. Neil Riser of Columbia, meanwhile, has something no other candidate in the race has — a north Louisiana zip code. Riser, however, told those gathered at the forum that his strengths run much deeper than locale. He  shared his memories of being 22-years-old when his father passed away, which forced him to take over the family funeral business. Prior to that, Riser said he was on the ground at the age of 14 in the timber industry, a tough job that cost him most of his hearing in one ear. “I’ve never had a job that was 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or Monday through Friday,” he said. “Never.”

Absent from the forum was Angele Davis, a fellow Republican and the president of the Davis Kelley Group, who was ill that day. After raising more money last quarter than her declared opponents, all three of which are stuck in a regular session in Baton Rouge, Davis is left free to roam the state and build up her campaign kitty. She also doesn’t have to take tough votes on issues that might play well on opposition direct mail pieces.

While Davis has her work history with former Gov. Bobby Jindal — extremely dated work that will nonetheless be thrown at her — to deal with, she could still have a small opening in this race to label herself as an outsider. Being the only non-legislator in the field is a distinction we’re likely to hear more about in the coming months.

In fact, you can expect to hear a whole lot more about the entire field of candidates. All you have to do is listen.

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