History gives Treasurer John Schroder a fighting chance in the 2023 governor’s race
Treasurer John Schroder says he will run for Louisiana governor next year, even if he hasn’t come out and said so directly. Multiple news outlets report the Republican from Covington told his supporters in a text message Wednesday morning he will enter the race.
The Daily Advertiser and The Advocate first reported on Schroder’s candidacy announcement. The Louisiana Radio Network asked the treasurer to confirm those reports after a lunch speaking engagement in Baton Rouge.
“I’ll confirm that I’m looking at it,” Schroder told LRN’s Jeff Palermo about the governor’s race. “We’ll make some decision or announcement later on this year.”
Story: Here’s a text John Schroder sent to supporters: ‘Just wanted to let you know that the Schroder family has met, and we will be entering the governor’s race. Timeline … not set yet, but I wanted to let you know.’ #lagov #lalege https://t.co/RXu0XsDOja via @theadvertiser
— Greg Hilburn (@GregHilburn1) January 19, 2022
When asked about the text message, Schroder said he “told some people that we made a decision, and we’ll make an announcement later this year.”
Schroder would be the first noteworthy contender to announce his run to replace John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who is term limited. Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser and Attorney General Jeff Landry are also considered likely candidates in the gubernatorial race.
The probable field for 2023 could feature three Republican statewide elected officials seeking the state’s highest elected office. Of the three positions, only treasurers have demonstrated a recent history of ascending politically.
The role of treasurer in Louisiana has largely involved work behind the scenes and without much political risk. Its highest profile task is to steward the state’s unclaimed property account, which allows the treasurer to reach out to people around the state to let them know there might be free money waiting for them.
Then there’s the headier work of overseeing the state’s investments and managing how Louisiana borrows money. As chair of the Louisiana Bond Commission, the treasurer has a platform to weigh in on state financial matters.
The position has provided a political springboard for a couple of its recent occupants. Schroder’s predecessor, John Kennedy, held the post for 17 years. He went from poking holes in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s fiscal policy to the U.S. Senate.
Like Kennedy, Mary Landrieu propelled herself from state treasurer to a U.S. Senate seat. Like Schroder, she also started her career in the Louisiana House of Representatives.
The lieutenant governor’s job in Louisiana might be even less controversial than the treasurer’s. Its primary mission is to promote the state to visitors and its products to a broader market. The state’s No. 2 official arguably enjoys a higher profile than the governor at the national level, given their duties as Louisiana’s chief tourism officer.
Yet there are very few instances of lieutenant governors advancing to the top job in Louisiana in the modern era. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco did it back in 2003, becoming the first woman to hold the post.
Before that, Earl Long became governor in 1939 when a scandal forced Richard Leche to resign. Long didn’t make it past the Democratic primary for governor in 1940, and it wasn’t until 1948 that he won the state’s highest office – after losing a runoff for lieutenant governor four years earlier.
Going further back, Lt. Gov. Oramel Simpson took over when Gov. Henry Fuqua died in 1926 but lost to Huey Long when he sought a full term two years later. You then have to go rewind to 1908 when voters helped J.Y. Sanders make the direct ascension from lieutenant governor to governor.
There is far less history involving attorneys general in Louisiana who became governor. Richard Ieyoub, the state’s AG from 1992 to 2004, tried most recently. He finished a distant third behind eventual winner Jindal in the 2003 primary election.
The last time an attorney general moved into the governor’s mansion was 1916, when Ruffin Pleasant made the successful transition. The only other person to hold both offices in Louisiana history was Isaac Johnson, who was elected governor in 1846, did not seek re-election and was appointed attorney general in 1850.
This history might not predict the outcome of next year’s governor’s race, but we may have gotten a telling glimpse of what next year’s campaign might resemble at a state bond commission meeting in November. It was there that Schroder acted on one of his few controversial stances, removing JPMorgan Chase from a bond refinancing deal because of its refusal to do business with gunmakers. Conservative powers on the commission have done so twice during Schroder’s tenure.
Landry, who sits on the commission and whose stance on the 2nd Amendment is in lockstep with the treasurer’s, complained that Schroder had left him out of the loop on the decision to turn over the refinancing deal to Wells Fargo. The ensuing spat between the two derailed the meeting for more than 30 minutes.
While Landry has positioned himself as a champion of the far right, Nungesser’s track record suggests more moderate leanings. For example, the lieutenant governor opposed state lawmakers who pushed transgender restrictions last year out of concern for the state’s image. He also has long-standing ties to the state’s GOP power brokers and deep-pocketed donors.
Schroder lands philosophically somewhere between the two, but it’s difficult to say precisely where. He has made his mark as a fiscal hawk, but he hasn’t had to take positions on many societal issues. Look for pressure on the U.S. Army veteran to be more pronounced on his stances when the campaign hits full stride.
For now, we’ll just have to wait and see what his next text message says.
Greg LaRose is editor of the Louisiana Illuminator. He can be reached at [email protected]
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