HomeHome InsuranceLouisiana voters have stark contrast in state treasurer candidates on the ballot

Louisiana voters have stark contrast in state treasurer candidates on the ballot

Voters in Saturday’s state treasurer election will have to pick between a lifelong conservative who held multiple jobs in President Donald Trump’s administration and an unabashed progressive who believes climate change is a major threat to Louisiana. 

Democrat Dustin Granger, 43, and Republican John Fleming, 72, are facing off in one of three statewide runoff races on the ballot this weekend. The other two contests, for attorney general and secretary of state, also feature Democrat/Republican matchups. 

The better-known of the two candidates, Fleming is a physician who served as the congressman representing northwest Louisiana from 2009 to 2017. He stepped down from his seat to run for the U.S. Senate and lost in a primary election to now-Sen. John Kennedy. U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-Benton, then replaced Fleming. 

For Trump, Fleming worked as a deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, assistant secretary of commerce for economic development, and as a senior adviser to the president in the White House. 

Fleming and his campaign did not respond to several interview requests made over the past two weeks for this story. 

Granger, a Lake Charles native, is a certified financial planner who previously ran unsuccessfully for the Louisiana Senate. He launched his campaign several months ago by emphasizing the need to diversify Louisiana’s economy and the state government’s investment portfolio.

“We have problems with poverty and brain drain. … Our economy is literally upside down,” Granger said in an interview. “That’s why we need somebody who knows economics.”

If elected, Granger would like to focus on the state’s property insurance crisis and attracting high-paying jobs to Louisiana. He specifically wants to recruit alternative energy jobs to the state.

“We’ve been an energy leader for the last 100 years,” Granger said. “But energy markets are changings, and we should want to be an energy leader for the next 100 years. … A lot of these [alternative energy] jobs are union jobs and high-paying jobs.”

Fleming told Louisiana Public Broadcasting he intends to focus on economic development opportunities if he wins the treasurer’s race. He also said the state’s property insurance crisis would be a priority. 

The state treasurer doesn’t have direct authority over property insurance, the energy sector or economic development, in spite of what Granger and Fleming have said they want to address. The role of the treasurer is limited in scope. 

“There is no specific authority or role given to the state treasurer” on economic development, Fleming said in his LPB interview. “It’s an indirect role, frankly. For the time being, it will have to be a collaboration with the governor and the legislature.” 

As the elected treasurer, Fleming or Granger will be the chair of the state bond commission, which oversees the government’s borrowing and debt program. The treasurer also runs the popular unclaimed property program, which helps people access forgotten money, stocks, utility deposits or inheritances they might not know existed.

Granger said he has helped his financial planning clients find money using the unclaimed property program and would like to streamline some of its operations.

“The paperwork has always been cumbersome. You need to go to the clerk of the court to get all these documents,” he said. “Money gets stuck in this purgatory. It is just not acceptable to have this money just tied up.”

Perhaps the most important role the state treasurer plays is to manage and invest the state government’s money. 

The current treasurer, Republican John Schroder, has tried to pull away from advisers who employ environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles when investing the state’s money. Schroder, who ran unsuccessfully for governor instead of seeking reelection this year, condemned ESG as a leftist approach that hurts Louisiana’s oil and gas industry.

Louisiana Treasurer John Schroder and New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell
Louisiana Treasurer John Schroder joins New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell for a groundbreaking ceremony July 19, 2022, for a state-financed affordable housing development in the city’s Hollygrove neighborhood. (Facebook Live stream)

Fleming indicated he would likely avoid firms with ESG policies as well. 

“I have nothing against renewable energy. … [But] the so-called renewables are not very competitive,” Fleming said in a previous interview. “Consumers aren’t purchasing renewable vehicles. … They aren’t not doing well in the marketplace.”

Granger, on the other hand, said he would embrace working with firms with ESG principles. Louisiana should support companies that invest in the alternative energy industry, he said.

In recent years, Gov.-elect Jeff Landry has also pushed for the bond commission to use its financial power to force more conservative social policies on liberal New Orleans and the state’s contractors.

As the current attorney general, Landry rallied other bond commission members to temporarily block construction funding for the city over its approach to abortion and COVID-19 restrictions. He also objected to the bond commission’s work with commercial banks that refused to do business with certain firearms companies.

After Landry becomes governor in January — and controls more of the bond commission seats — pressure to compel the state’s vendors and municipalities to comply with conservative social policies in order to access construction funding could grow. Granger said he would oppose those types of efforts. 

“It is anti-competition,” he said.”This is costing working people in this state money.”

Fleming and Granger both beat out GOP state Rep. Scott McKnight to make it into the runoff race with 44% and 32% of the Oct. 14 primary vote, respectively. McKnight was a more centrist candidate, meaning that his voters could, at least in theory, get behind Fleming or Granger in the runoff round. 

The voter dynamics for this weekend’s runoff election will be different than they were in the primary. Election turnout is supposed to be extremely low, which typically benefits a Republican like Fleming, but conservative voter participation may also drop off precipitously.

Landry — a popular, Trump-like figure — won his race outright last month and his campaign won’t be pushing voters to the polls during the runoff election. 

Granger’s campaign has also been pushing a narrative that he stands the best chance of winning Saturday out of the three statewide Democratic candidates on the runoff ballot. He garnered more votes in the October primary than any other statewide Democrat, including gubernatorial candidate Shawn Wilson, who had been the party’s focus before he lost to Landry. 

As a former member of Congress, Fleming should have a significant advantage when it comes to his name recognition with this weekend’s voters.

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