Democrat Derrick Edwards and Republican John Schroder made the runoff Saturday in the race for state treasurer.
Republican Angele Davis, of Baton Rouge, placed third, with 99 percent of the precincts reporting.
Edwards, a New Orleans attorney, was expected to secure a spot in the runoff as the sole Democrat in the race despite raising little money and rarely campaigning. He pulled down about 31 percent of the vote tallied.
Former state Rep. Schroder, a real estate developer from Covington, raised more money than all his opponents put together. He polled 24 percent of the vote — ahead of Davis by about 9,000 ballots.
The two top vote-getters will meet in a Nov. 18 runoff.
In a Republican-leaning state, getting into the runoff with the Democrat was considered the top goal of the three major GOP candidates.
The third Republican, state Sen. Neil Riser, of Columbia, finished well outside the money. Republican businessman Terry Hughes, of Lafayette, and letter carrier Joseph D. Little, a Libertarian from Ponchatoula, received single-digit percentages of the votes.
The race was marked by exceptionally low donations that hampered campaign operations and failed to create buzz for a post that ranks fourth in Louisiana’s gubernatorial line of succession. The state treasurer’s race and three constitutional amendments were the only items on most ballots across the state.
Only about 13 percent of the state’s 2.9 million voters bothered to go to the polls, making Saturday’s race one of the lowest turnouts in history for a statewide race.
Low voter interest gave New Orleans, which elected a mayor and City Council, a larger-than-usual presence in deciding the outcome of the statewide race, despite a relatively low participation there. Edwards won 62 percent of the vote in Orleans Parish.
Treasurer acts as Louisiana’s banker, pooling the money that comes in from taxes and fees, then writes the checks that pays the bills when told to by the heads of other agencies. When the money is not in use, a treasurer makes short-term investments, often for only a day or two, to raise a few extra bucks for the treasury.
Additionally, the state treasurer chairs the Bond Commission, which decides when the state will guarantee loans for projects and decides which private entities to contract to handle the bonds.
The six candidates were competing to fill out the remaining two years of John Kennedy's term, who served as treasurer for 16 years before resigning to join the U.S. Senate.
Edwards had the most compelling story in the race.
Made quadriplegic from an on-field collision during a high school football game, Edwards defied doctors’ predictions to earn bachelor's and master’s degrees in accounting from Tulane University and law degree from Loyola University.
Since November 2007, Edwards has practiced law and travels the country as a motivational speaker.
Edwards said he wants to “stop cuts to education, health care and wasteful government spending.”
But state Democratic Party leaders, who failed to find a candidate for the statewide race, refused to officially back Edwards. They said he missed filing deadlines, hadn’t recruited campaign staff early enough and had no plan for winning beyond being the only Democrat in the race.
Edwards did little campaigning, rarely spoke to reporters or attended forums and refused to say what he planned to do as treasurer, adding that he would reveal all after being elected.
Schroder ran on fixing the state’s fiscal troubles on the campaign trail, which he said was necessary to protect the Louisiana’s bond rating, which determines what kind of interest rate state government receives when it takes out loans.
Schroder was the key sponsor of the legislation that created in 2016 the blue-ribbon Task Force on Structural Changes in Budget and Tax Policy panel that came up with ideas to strengthen the state financial structure. The proposals were widely praised but almost universally ignored during the 2017 legislative sessions.
Though his ads referred mostly to his work in the U.S. Army and as an undercover agent for the Ascension Parish sheriff, Schroder has spent the past 25 years building a successful business developing and building residential properties on the fast-growing north shore of Lake Pontchartrain.
As a state representative in western St. Tammany Parish — Kennedy was a constituent — Schroder made a name for himself as an ardent critic of the fiscal practices of Gov. Bobby Jindal and Gov. John Bel Edwards.
A severe lack of funding created a deep apathy among voters. No independent polls were released that would give a hint as to which candidates were making headway. Television advertising, which usually fills months of airtime, was sporadic at best until the final week of the campaign.
In the words of state Rep. Julie Stokes, who dropped out of the treasurer's race in July to undergo treatment for breast cancer, no money means little television advertising, which translates into no buzz.