Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Schroder ends the mystery and enters governor’s race

by BIZ Magazine

By Greg LaRose, Louisiana Illuminator

MANDEVILLE – Long considered a probable candidate, Louisiana Treasurer John Schroder made his intentions public Thursday night and announced he is running for governor. He joins a field that so far includes three other Republican contenders.

Before a large crowd of supporters at the Fleur de Lis Event Center, Schroder shared his campaign platform on crime prevention, improving education, eliminating corruption, reforming the state’s tax structure and economic development.

“If Louisiana is truly going to prosper, we must restore faith in government and our trust back into what the public has lost,” Schroder said. “As governor, I will lead this state and restore that trust.”

Schroder, 62, a U.S. Army veteran and former police officer, said it wasn’t until a couple weeks ago that he fully committed to a run for governor. A key factor in his decision was whether Republican U.S. Sen. John Kennedy would enter the race, but Schroder’s decision didn’t come until weeks after Kennedy announced he would remain in Washington.

Now Schroder and others wait to see whether Congressman Garret Graves will join the field. The Republican from Baton Rouge has kept his interest close to the vest all along, and his decision would loom large in terms of big GOP donors who aren’t on board with the state party’s endorsement of Attorney General Jeff Landry.

The other potential difference maker in the race is Democrat Shawn Wilson, state transportation secretary. His entry, which could be imminent, would likely gel his party’s support should state chairman Katie Bernhardt make it clear she won’t be a candidate. 

Other announced candidates are extreme longshots: independent Hunter Lundy of Lake Charles; Democrat Daniel Cole of LaSalle Parish; and Republican Xan John of Crowley.   

While adding that he doesn’t think money will determine who’s the next governor, Schroder told his supporters Thursday his campaign had raised more than $1.1 million over the past 13 months. The next campaign finance filing deadline for candidates who received contributions last year is Feb. 15, and it could offer a better look at where the contenders stand with cash on hand.

Speaking of cash, Schroder is counting on Louisiana voters to recognize him as the person in charge of the state’s unclaimed property program. He bragged to the crowd at his campaign launch that Louisiana’s unclaimed property program has been recognized as one of the best in the nation in terms of the amount of money it has put back in residents’ hands.

Schroder and his wife of 37 years, Ellie, built a real estate business after his career in law enforcement. After winning a seat in the Louisiana House of Representatives in 2008, he earned a frugal reputation among lawmakers with his frequent scrutiny of state spending and budget policy. 

He won the race for state treasurer in 2017 to complete Kennedy’s term and earned a full term two years later. In her speech Thursday night, Ellie Schroder got the crowd to repeat one of her husband’s oft-repeated mottos: “Treat every penny like a dollar.”

As of late, Schroder has used the treasurer’s pulpit to preach against “net zero” investment philosophies based on progressive environmental, social and governance principles, or ESG for short. He notably pulled nearly $800 million in Louisiana’s assets from the advisory firm BlackRock Inc., saying its stance on fossil fuel would lead to lost jobs in the state.

In his campaign kickoff speech, Schroder stressed the need to overhaul Louisiana’s tax structure. 

“We must compete with other states by aggressively reforming our tax code, and devise a plan to ultimately remove …our state income tax,” he said, drawing cheers from attendees.     

Some Republicans who find Landry caustic could see Schroder as an acceptable alternative. The two have been on opposing sides at the Louisiana Bond Commission, which the treasurer chairs, notably when the attorney general inserted political issues into what’s typically been a fiscal review process.

While Schroder is by no means sizing up the moderate label, he did balance some of the conservative talking points in his speech with calls for social investment. 

“We must support our law enforcement and improve our community relations,” he said. “But just like the rest of government, they must be held accountable.”

Further, Schroder stressed root causes while continuing his tough-on-crime talk. After suggesting repeat offenders should receive appropriate punishments, he said the state needed to address its crises in mental health and drug addiction.

“Catch and release, that might be good for bass fishing,” Schroder said, “but it isn’t good when it comes to catching bad guys.”

Schroder’s tone took a turn to the right when he discussed education, during which he cited his wife’s experience as a teacher. “Parents do know what’s best for their children,” he said, a sentiment not far removed from conservative efforts nationwide to take curriculum approval decisions away from school boards and administrators.

“But let’s stop blaming teachers and finally provide them with the resources and support that they need,” he added. “Our children are not the property of bureaucrats, and we will not let liberal views stop them from learning math, science and history.”   

Schroder is one of three candidates for governor from St. Tammany Parish, joining state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, and state Rep. Richard Nelson, R-Mandeville. The treasurer represented the Covington area in the legislature but now lives in Washington Parish.

Had Kennedy entered the race, he would have been the fourth Northshore contender, hailing from Madisonville.

Attendees at the Schroder soiree, which was free and open to the public, included St. Tammany Parish President Mike Cooper and Parish Councilman Rykert Toledano. Former Mandeville Mayor Donald Villere, who’s seeking a seat on the parish council, was also present. 

Former Jefferson Parish President John Young and current state Rep. Polly Thomas, R-Metairie, came from the south shore for the campaign launch. Schroder was born in Jefferson Parish and graduated from East Jefferson High School and Southeastern Louisiana University. 

Several local GOP group members were there as well. They included Martha Huckabay, former president of the Women’s Republican Club of New Orleans. She has openly embraced QAnon conspiracies, ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic to questioning the results of the 2020 presidential election.    

The National Federation of Republican Women cut ties with Huckabay for, among other stances, her support of state Rep. Ray Garofalo, R-Chalmette, when he suggested there were good aspects of slavery.

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