Qualifying Quickies: 2019 State Elections, Day 2

The lone statewide incumbent who had not qualified for re-election on the first day of sign-ups was Treasurer John Schroder. He remedied that by moseying into the Secretary of State’s office mid-morning Wednesday.

“I’m running again; on a platform of common sense, cutting spending, and eliminating waste,” the Republican from Covington told the quartet of reporters in attendance on Day 2.

Known for being a chronic complainer while he served in the state legislature, Schroder continues to air grievances as part of his political persona, patterned on his Treasurer predecessor, John Neely Kennedy.

“Good policy decisions should not be political, yet Louisiana’s legislature and administration continue to spend every dime,” Schroder says. “It doesn’t work any place else, and it’s not something you do in real life.”

Treasurer John Schroder, after signing up for re-election. Credit: Sue Lincoln

The incumbent Treasurer listed examples of the spending, culled from state capital outlay expenditures on a plethora of local recreational projects, culled from the agenda of the most recent Bond Commission meeting.

“We’re going to be spending $4.9-billion over the next 20 years, with $1.2-billion of it going to non-state projects,” he observed. “If we continue to prioritize our politics, we’ll drive our state into more and more debt because we borrow the money to do all this.”

Saying he has yet to determine where and how he will spend his own campaign funds, Schroder says he has no specific thoughts regarding this race, rather that he’s simply looking forward to doing the work.

Schroder had drawn a challenger the previous day: Derrick Edwards, the Democrat who’d made it to the November 2017 state Treasurer runoff. After signing up Tuesday, Edwards delivered his statement to the media.

“I’m running for Treasurer to fight for the soul of Louisiana’s economy. I’m the most qualified person, and I will use my financial and legal background to lower the state’s bond rate,” he said. It was a virtual repetition of his talking points from the previous race.

Derrick Edwards, state Treasurer candidate, 8-6-2019. Credit: Sue Lincoln

After concluding his statement with a plea for contributions, Edwards declined to answer questions from the media, saying he needed to get to a meeting elsewhere.

It seemed to be a pattern, as Gwen Collins-Greenup, the Democrat who’d made it to the Secretary of State runoff against Kyle Ardoin in December 2018, had similarly refused interaction with reporters when she qualified on Tuesday. She declined to speak with the media at all.

Yet a third qualifier for Secretary of State who appeared Wednesday, just minutes before the doors closed, was anything but reluctant to talk.

Amanda “Jennings” Smith, Secretary of State candidate. Credit: Sue Lincoln

Amanda “Jennings” Smith is a Republican from Bastrop, who says she is running because she is “concerned about the influx of new voters, due to the prison reforms we’ve enacted in Louisiana, along with security for the ten thousand new voting machines we just got.”

(Louisiana hasn’t even put out the bid requests yet.)

She says another reason she is running for Secretary of State is the position’s oversight of state museums.

“I want to see the Cajun Navy in museum exhibits all over the state,” Smith says.

“Proudly patriotic”, she states she is “self-taught and self-educated,” and will be campaigning mostly via social media. She claims, “I can make things go viral.”

Her campaign’s Facebook page is festooned with images of Confederate flags.

The governor’s race attracted two more candidates on Wednesday: Manuel Russell Leach and Gary Landrieu.

Manuel Russell Leach, LA Gov. candidate. Credit: Sue Lincoln

Leach is a Republican from Natchitoches, a contractor who owns Bridgeway Building Services, but was reluctant to discuss his platform publicly. After some encouragement, he did reveal that he’s running because, “My God has placed this on my heart. It’s an obligation I have to something bigger than ourselves.”

Landrieu, on the other hand, was all about engaging the media. Although reticent to discuss his finances, the independent from Metairie didn’t hesitate to pick a fight with the Secretary of State, and try to draw reporters into the controversy over the way his name would be listed on the ballot.

Gary Landrieu, LA Gov. candidate. Credit: Sue Lincoln

“I went in and tried to put my name on the ballot the way I wanted it – as ‘Go Gary Landrieu.’ Secretary Ardoin wouldn’t allow it; said it was a slogan, not a nickname,” Landrieu stated. “My mother was ready to attest to it as my nickname, but he said no. He told me to either file or leave.”

Landrieu says with 750,000 registered independents, he expects to cruise right into the Governor’s Mansion through the support of the “free people.” He is allegedly Mitch and Mary’s first cousin (though he wouldn’t talk about them, preferring to refer to his descendance from Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Sieur de Bienville), and says he wants to move Louisiana off the top of the bad lists. He acknowledges the main reason we are 49th or lower in everything good is because “We are poor.”

“So let’s not be poor anymore,” Landrieu says. “The easiest way to do that is by making Louisiana into the ‘Las Vegas of the South’,” through expanding the number of land-based casinos.

Perhaps the gaming industry is the source of his campaign funding. He’s been running TV ads, has put up billboards, and pulled up at the Secretary of State office in an RV emblazoned with his face, name and link to his campaign website. Yet “GoGary” hasn’t yet filed a campaign finance report for this election cycle.

The “Go Gary” RV. Credit: Sue Lincoln

I asked him about that.

“We filed yesterday. That was the deadline, wasn’t it?” he said with a smirk and a wink.

No, Gary, you didn’t. And no, it wasn’t. You haven’t filed since February 2017, and the most recent finance filing deadline for this year’s governor’s race was July 15.

“Fill us in on your source of funds in the meantime?” I asked.

“You’ll have to just wait and see,” he replied.

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Sue Lincoln
Sue Lincoln is a veteran and widely-respected reporter who has been covering Louisiana politics for nearly three decades. Originally from Long Beach, California, Sue’s career in journalism began on the radio in Los Angeles. After moving to Louisiana, Sue earned her bachelor’s degree. For ten years, from 2000-2010, she was the Assistant News Director at Louisiana Network. Sue also worked as the education reporter for Louisiana Public Broadcasting and has contributed to various state publications as a freelance journalist. But she is perhaps best known as the voice of the popular politics Capitol Access.