Filed Under:  Politics

Candidates for La. Treasurer race for funds

24th April 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Christopher Tidmore
Contributing Writer

Two Republican state representatives have been eyeing one another across the floor of the House throughout this legislative session, Representatives Julie Stokes and John Schroder. And both occasionally cast a glance at the door across to the Senate, where Neil Riser sits.

For the three legislators, last week’s budgetary battles pose as merely prologue to their looming post-session struggle to win the autumn special election for the vacant Louisiana Treasurer’s post. All three have raised six-figure sums to seize the arguably constitutionally weak statewide post, which seems odd until one remembers that John Kennedy ascended to the U.S. Senate from the job, as did his predecessor Mary Landrieu.

In some ways, the Treasurer’s office is the perfect stepping stone. (Though Kennedy’s two previous bids for the U.S. Senate might suggest persistence plays a role as well, as does Landrieu’s unsuccessful run for Governor the year previous.) The office does not force its incumbent to make many controversial choices. Despite the name, the State Treasurer has no responsibility to make budgetary choices—or even recommendations, though Kennedy used the “bully pulpit” of the position to opine on that very subject as a critic of Bobby Jindal. It gained him support on the Right, and some on the Left, as he cast himself as the voice of reform in contrast to the not-so-Boy-Wonder.

Never forget Kennedy’s great innovation, which makes the Treasurer’s office so alluring to his potential successors. He transferred the Office of Unclaimed Property from his previous perch in the Revenue Department to Treasury. Transforming his post into a statewide ‘Santa Claus’, restoring money that voters forgot they had, this statewide office uniquely provides the potential of a personal following amongst the electorate—on a massive scale. One so strong that it permitted Kennedy the feat of standing for the U.S. Senate as both a liberal Democrat and a conservative Republican, while never endangering his chances of re-election to the Treasury despite his double losses.

Most critically, from a fundraising standpoint, the Treasurer’s principal job is to finance Louisiana’s debt on Wall Street, and elsewhere, putting he or she in contact with financial leaders around the world. Broker of billions in loans for this state creates an influence all of its own, even if the power to spend that money is nonexistent.

As big money is involved, even in a middleman capacity, few observers expressed surprise that fiscal hawk Covington’s Rep. John Schroder parlayed his position as a darling of the Tea Party Right into the leading contender in the money contest for Treasurer. Schroder has assembled the highest campaign kitty in the months prior to qualifying, with $609,000 in his campaign account and $184,000 raised for the quarter, according to filings with the state Ethics Committee.

Schroder has been willing to gamble his personal wealth as well, loaning his campaign $184,000, so confident is he in strong GOP support. His small businessman chutzpah is mirrored in his Southshore opponent Julie Stokes. She signed for a campaign loan of $250,000, in order to boost her quarterly report

If Schroder enjoys enthusiasm from Tea Party activists, Stokes, a CPA by profession, stands as the standard-bearer of Chamber of Commerce Republicans. The Metairie Representative has seen the business wing of the GOP rush to her side, both in Jefferson and amongst the LABI members across the state. Consequently, she closely trails Schroder in the money race with $534,000 in the bank and $128,000 in contributions for the first quarter of 2017.

State Sen. Neil Riser has predicated his candidacy on being neither of his rival, or more specifically not hailing from metro New Orleans. However, his effort as the lone GOP candidate from North Louisiana, has not received as much monetary success. The Caldwell Parish funeral home owner has only garnered $170,000 in contributions in the first quarter with just $156,000 in the bank.

These legislators will have outsider competition for Treasurer, though. She might not have formally announced just yet, but Angele Davis, president of the Davis Kelley Group, raked in $264,000 in donations in a two-month period, with $234,000 in the bank.

Retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness, who has been working the halls of the legislature on behalf of his GatorPAC and a few other interested parties in recent day, has also flirted with a Treasury bid. Given his high statewide profile from his two Senate bids, Maness would have a constituency on the Right; though, Schroder would eat into the retired B-1 Bomber commander’s Tea Party base. With a new WGSO radio show on Monday nights, the Colonel keeps his name in discussion. Irony would abound if Maness reversed the recent trend of using a Senate bid to enter the Treasurer’s office.

A lone Democrat, New Orleans attorney Derrick Edwards, also has officially declared. Previously, a contender in the 2016 U.S. Senate race, he has not updated his website from his Senate bid other than to “welcome you to my 2017 Louisiana State Treasurer campaign website.” That comment is just below his Edwards’ “U.S. Senator 2016” banner, and just above his proposals for Social Security and health care reform—on the federal level. The website domain remains

As Jeremy Alford noted, “As for the spending side of the equation, Schroder is putting up more dough than anyone else to get a campaign structure in place, with $76,000 in expenditures during the first quarter. Stokes spent $39,000, Riser dropped $35,000 and Davis ponied up $27,000.”

This article originally published in the April 24, 2017 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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