BATON ROUGE, La. — The race for Louisiana state treasurer, a job vacant for the first time in 17 years, attracted five contenders Wednesday on the opening day of the registration period for a special fall election that will cost taxpayers $5 million.
Nearly all the candidates to be Louisiana’s top money manager and investment official had announced their intentions to appear on the Oct. 14 ballot, and had been fundraising for weeks or months before showing up to file their paperwork and pay election fees at the Secretary of State’s Office.
The top three, all Republicans, have state government experience, which they say makes them the most qualified to take over the job Republican John Kennedy vacated when he was elected to the U.S. Senate. They talked Wednesday of Louisiana’s continuing financial problems, though the treasurer has little ability beyond using the position to highlight the woes to do much to solve them.
And those problems remain profound: Louisiana has struggled through nearly a decade of financial troubles, with midyear shortfalls cropping up each year as the state’s income falls below its spending. A gap of more than $1 billion is forecast for the next budget year, when temporary taxes expire.
Former state budget administrator Angele Davis, a Baton Rouge Republican who worked for GOP former Govs. Mike Foster and Bobby Jindal and Democratic former Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, cited her background in public finance. She served as Jindal’s top budget adviser the first two years of his eight-year tenure.
“The challenges that we are being faced with in our state need someone with qualifications and experience. I’m a fiscal conservative. I’ve worked under two governors. I have worked very successfully to increase our bond ratings under both governors,” she said.
State Sen. Neil Riser, a Republican funeral home owner from Caldwell Parish, cited his four-year tenure as the chairman of the Senate tax committee and his years as a bank board member.
Former state Rep. John Schroder, a Republican businessman and former law enforcement officer from St. Tammany Parish who resigned his legislative seat in June to focus on the campaign, highlighted his push in the legislature to cut spending.
“I’m a fighter for people. That’s what I do. This provides me an opportunity to represent people from a different seat than where I’ve been the last 10 years. I think I’m well prepared for it,” Schroder said.
Also signing up for the race were lawyer Derrick Edwards, a New Orleans Democrat who unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate seat last year, and Joseph Little, a Libertarian from Ponchatoula. Qualifying continues through Friday evening.
The special election creates an unexpected expense, since Louisiana wasn’t scheduled to have other statewide races this year. It’s the first time the treasurer’s office hasn’t had an incumbent since Kennedy was elected 17 years ago. He drew attention to the treasurer’s office after getting into several high-profile clashes with governors over spending and budget-balancing tactics.
“I think (Kennedy) brought it to the forefront, the role being showing the people and letting them know where wasteful spending is going on,” Riser said. “He did a good job of doing that, and I also want to do that.”
Schroder has the fundraising lead, with $609,000 cash on hand including a personal loan to his campaign, according to the latest finance reports. Davis reported $234,000 in her campaign account, and Riser had $156,000. Edwards and Little haven’t filed campaign finance reports.
One of the top fundraisers for the treasurer’s race had been Republican state Rep. Julie Stokes, an accountant from Kenner. But she exited the race last week after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Ron Henson, Kennedy’s top assistant, has been working as interim state treasurer until someone is elected.
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