Tuesday, 20 December 2016 20:52

Replacing John Kennedy for Louisiana Treasurer, candidates in review

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kennedy officeWith state Treas. John Kennedy ascending to the U.S. Senate at the start of next month, the job he has held for 17 years comes open. Since now it has catapulted upwards its last two occupants who won reelection to it, ambitious politicians reasonably view it as a stepping stone to higher office, attracting a number who have voiced consideration for the job.

But as a state whose population votes center-right ideologically, the electorate would prefer certain candidates over others. Even though the job itself provides little room for policy-making, featuring largely technocratic and arcane functions to most voters, because it can act as a launching pad to higher, more issue-driven positions, candidates who stake out issue preferences on fiscal matters appealing to conservatives have every incentive to publicize these and force the election to play out in this territory.

This makes certain candidates more acceptable than others: those who have conservative fiscal ideas and can demonstrate at least minor expertise in the area of the treasurer’s job functions (not that Kennedy had a lot of this background before his election, and prior to the guy he beat former Sen. Mary Landrieu held the job, who had zero qualifications on this account). Thus, listed below in order of acceptability to conservatives are major figures not fairly unlikely to run.

Speaker Pro-Tempore Rep. Walt Leger. A liberal Democrat but sometimes cozy with business interests, Leger has the problem of living in New Orleans and in a Senate district with an immovable object (state Sen. Karen Peterson, head of his party) and black majority in his way when he becomes term limited for 2019. Thus, he has to move on soon, and this is as good as anything for that purpose. He likely rather would want to take over from another white Democrat, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, in 2018, but too many covetous black politicians at the local and state levels will want to run for that job. With his pro-big government, pro-tax-and-spend record, he has no chance to win.

State Sen. Eric LaFleur. A more moderate Democrat than Leger, he has a background in public finance, which would make him more competitive but still a distinct underdog against almost all of the Republican names below. But he would have to give up his public sector finance clients in his law practice, much of his business, to take the job, meaning he may rather continue to serve as a legislator.

Starting-to-become-perennial-candidate and former military officer Rob Maness. He will earn this sobriquet if he makes a run here, after two failed U.S. Senate tries. If these tries taught the Republican anything, it’s that as long as a credible conservative runs he has no chance of winning, and that will happen this time. So, if he, with no experience in this area and never having held elective office, does run for this, it will be for reasons of boredom from retirement and vanity.

State Rep. Julie Stokes. The Republican has shown a propensity for enjoying headlines and already has started campaigning. However, in her legislative career she has shown too much enthusiasm for expanding government and raising taxes, even as otherwise she typically votes in a pro-reform fashion.

Former Speaker Chuck Kleckley. He got good marks leading the GOP-majority House and held the line on tax increases. But he also made some questionable moves, such as shepherding through legislation that eventually facilitated ruinous Medicaid expansion that should make advocates of right-sized, sensible government pause regarding his candidacy.

State Rep. John Schroder. In large part, the Republican has provided a consistent message of reducing government spending and avoiding tax increases. However, from time to time his legislation and actions have served more to grandstand than to make for productive governance, such as throwing his lot in with a faction once known as “fiscal hawks” who presented a lot of feel-good, simplistic ideas that would allege to cut spending, but which in reality treated the symptoms of fiscal imbalance and not its underlying causes, solving nothing. He says he will run.

State Sen. Neil Riser. Throughout his career the Republican has voted as one of the Legislature most conservative members, fiscal matters included. Yet his fumbling campaign in a special election for the Fifth Congressional District where he managed to throw away the contest to a rank amateur (who subsequently self-destructed in office) raises questions about whether he can run a winning statewide effort.

From a limited government perspective, the best candidate expressing interest among these elected officials is GOP state Rep. Paul Hollis, who has shown extreme aversion to giving government any more resources than it has. He also briefly ran a statewide campaign for Senate in 2014. The question will be whether he gained enough experience and made enough contacts in that brief sojourn to launch a serious effort this time.

Jeffrey Sadow

Jeffrey Sadow is an associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University in Shreveport.   He writes a daily conservative blog called Between The Lines



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