Candidates sign up for Louisiana’s secretary of state race
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — After sexual harassment allegations caused the resignation of Louisiana’s last secretary of state, a state lawmaker who registered Thursday to run for the open position pledged to “clean the house” of anyone who is disrespectful or discriminatory.
State Rep. Julie Stokes, a Kenner Republican, didn’t mention the accusations against Republican Tom Schedler directly or name him. But she clearly referenced the scandal in which Schedler was sued by one of his then-employees for sexual harassment.
“There will be a zero tolerance policy for harassment and discrimination of any type from top to bottom,” Stokes said after signing up for the race. “We will clean the house of anyone who disrespects personnel or threatens to tarnish the reputation of this office.”
Two other contenders filed their paperwork a day earlier for the Nov. 6 election for secretary of state: Republican former Sen. A.G. Crowe of Pearl River and Democrat Renee Fontenot Free of Baton Rouge, who worked as top assistant to two prior secretaries of state.
Another lawmaker, Republican Rep. Rick Edmonds, a pastor from Baton Rouge, said he’ll qualify for the race Friday, on the election registration period’s last day.
Schedler stepped down in May, after holding the office since 2010. Schedler’s former top assistant, Kyle Ardoin, is working as interim secretary of state until voters choose someone to fill the remaining year of Schedler’s term.
Whoever wins the special election for secretary of state will have to run again next year to hang onto the job as Louisiana’s chief elections official, overseer of the state archives and keeper of the state seal. The secretary of state also manages the registration of businesses in Louisiana and several museums, including the Old State Capitol.
Stokes, an accountant, registered for the race only days after getting confirmation from her doctor that she remains cancer-free. Treatment for breast cancer derailed Stokes’ plans to run for state treasurer last year.
No other candidate in the race referenced Schedler’s scandal when signing up to run.
Crowe described his 16 years as a state lawmaker, both in the House and Senate, and his experience as the founder and CEO of a records management company. He said those jobs gave him a good understanding of how government works, along with archival work.
Crowe said voters “will see that what we bring to the table is a pretty good package of experience and knowledge.”
Free, running for her first elected office, also stressed her work background. She said she knows the inner workings of the secretary of state’s office after working there from 2004 through 2008, including in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Most recently, Free worked as director of the attorney general’s public protection division, taking a leave of absence to run for office.
All the candidates have pledged to place a priority on protecting elections against voter fraud, intimidation and cyberattacks.
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