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Kyle Ardoin wins election for Louisiana secretary of state

December 9, 2018
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FILE- In this July 20, 2018 file photo, Interim Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, R-Baton Rouge, talks to reporters about his last-minute decision to run in the special election for secretary of state, in Baton Rouge, La. The two candidates vying to be Louisiana secretary of state are trying to draw interest to a late-in-the-year election from voters distracted with holiday festivities and Christmas shopping. The runoff on Saturday, Dec. 8 between Republican Ardoin and Democrat Gwen Collins-Greenup to be Louisiana’s top elections official is the only race on the ballot in eight parishes. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte, File)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Republican Kyle Ardoin has retained the Louisiana secretary of state’s job he’s been performing since May, winning a special election Saturday that was set in motion when his former boss stepped down in a sexual harassment scandal.

Ardoin defeated Democrat Gwen Collins-Greenup, a little-known candidate who significantly lagged in fundraising, to keep the position as state elections chief.

The runoff election fills the remaining year of the term of Tom Schedler, a Republican who resigned as secretary of state amid allegations he sexually harassed one of his female employees.

“The secretary of state’s office is turning the page and entering a new chapter, a chapter I believe will be the most meaningful and impactful in history,” Ardoin said in his victory speech. “Our administration will not be defined by change. Rather, we will continue to expand upon the excellent work of the women and men of our office.”

Ardoin and Collins-Greenup emerged the top two vote-getters in a nine-person November primary for the position overseeing elections, state archives, business registrations and some museums, such as the Old State Capitol.

Ardoin, Schedler’s chief aide from Baton Rouge and a former lobbyist, surprised opponents and political watchers when he signed up as a candidate in the final minutes of the registration period — after repeatedly saying he didn’t intend to run.

He used conservative talking points about protecting voter integrity, and he positioned himself as an incumbent with a slogan of “Keep Kyle” though he’s only been in the top job seven months. He suggested his work in the agency for nearly a decade would keep him from needing “on-the-job training.”

“I’m proud of the record of this office,” Ardoin said. “I feel like we have put this office on a trajectory for success, even after the difficult times we’ve faced.”

Collins-Greenup, from the East Feliciana Parish town of Clinton, reached the runoff without support from the Democratic Party, with little money and with no widespread advertising. The party backed her in the runoff, and she boosted her fundraising. Still, her campaign operated on a shoestring budget, focused on social media and events, with only modest advertising.

While Ardoin was on statewide television, Collins-Greenup couldn’t afford such campaign tactics. Instead, she traveled the state, seeking support at churches, in community meetings, on college campuses and among African-American voters who make up the Louisiana Democratic Party’s base.

She has a law degree and is in school for a master’s degree. Collins-Greenup has worked as a notary, in real estate and in the ministry. She cited her tenure in the East Feliciana Parish clerk of court’s office and as an administrator in Baton Rouge City Court as helping ready her for the secretary of state’s office.

“When this position came up, I thought all my experience matched this job,” she said ahead of Election Day. “I feel like I have the education, the experience and the passion to see this office do well.”

While Ardoin touted the performance of the secretary of state’s office, Collins-Greenup suggested more could be done to improve voter outreach, upgrade technology and inform people before they are purged from voting rolls.

The secretary of state’s office is in the middle of a multimillion-dollar effort to replace Louisiana’s voting machines, but the work has stalled for months amid criticism the agency mishandled the bid process. A contract award was voided, and no timeline has been issued for restarting the work to replace the 13-year-old machines, as the secretary of state’s office waits to see if a lawsuit will be filed.

Ardoin will only have a short reprieve from campaigning and will have to run again next year in Louisiana’s regular statewide election to hang onto the job.

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Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte

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