Kenner Republican Rep. Julie Stokes, who is running for state treasurer in the October special election, handed out fans during the 4th of July parade in the Kenilworth neighborhood of Baton Rouge on Monday, July 3,2017. 

Advocate Photo by Mark Ballard

Rep. Julie Stokes dropped out of the race for state treasurer Thursday after being diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer.

Just as the low key treasurer’s race was getting underway the Kenner Republican, who had campaigned at a Baton Rouge parade on Monday, said in a text that she withdrew because of the extensive treatment necessary. Stokes faces at least five months of chemotherapy.

“So, instead of running for state treasurer to help get our state’s fiscal house in order, I will focus on fighting and winning my battle against cancer and spending quality time with my loving family who mean the world to me,” Stokes said in an open letter on her campaign website http://www.votejuliestokes.com/.

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs, possibly radiation, to kill cancer cells, according to the American Cancer Society. Her doctors don’t expect to have to perform surgery, but the treatment often causes fatigue, nausea, and other side effects in many patients.

A certified public accountant, Stokes had wide support in the business community and reported having $529,334 in hand on June 13 for the campaign.

Stokes was one of four candidates who already has raised six figures for the Oct. 14 special election. A runoff, if necessary, is set for Nov. 18. The official sign up to qualify for the ballot is next week from July 12 through July 14.

The remaining three main contenders in the race to replace John N. Kennedy, who left the office after 16 years upon becoming a U.S. senator in January, are: Angele Davis, of Baton Rouge and former Commissioner of Administration under Gov. Bobby Jindal; state Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia; and former state Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington.

Derrick Edwards, a New Orleans lawyer and the only Democrat, and Mike Lawrence, a Republican accountant from Madisonville, have both announced they are running but have not raised enough money to require filing financial reports with the Louisiana Board of Ethics.

The state treasurer manages state revenues; presides over the Bond Commission, which decides which loans to take out to pay for state projects; and brokers billions in loans with Wall Street financiers. The state government agency head is one of seven posts elected statewide.

Stokes announcement came just as the campaigns in the race began to shift gears to more a retail style of campaigning. So far, most of the campaigning has taken place behind closed doors of small gatherings.

Stokes held fundraisers last week in Lafayette and New Orleans, which were hosted by some of the state’s biggest GOP hitters, including shipbuilders Donald “Boysie” Bollinger, of Lockport, and Gary Chouest, of Cut Off, as well as New Orleans developer Joe Canizaro. Bollinger and Canizaro were financial state co-chairs in President Donald J. Trump’s campaign.

Stokes had travelled the state with the Committee of 100 for Economic Development, a Baton Rouge-based group of top executives, as one of the lead speakers on revamping the state’s tax structure.

A self-described nerd for fiscal policy, Stokes is known for whipping out spreadsheets as evidence to support deep dives into her positions on how tax cuts, tax exemptions and spending decisions impact the state budget.

“Ellie and I are heartbroken to hear about Julie Stokes’ diagnosis,” Schroder said in an email. “Julie is a fighter and I know that she will overcome this. Our prayers go out to her and her family.”

Davis also offered to help and prayers to Stokes. "I know she will succeed in her fight," Davis said in an interview.

Stokes said she expects to be well by the time the next legislative session begins in March 2018 and will continue to serve in the Louisiana House. Her District 79 runs along Lake Pontchartrain in Jefferson Parish from roughly the Suburban Canal west to the parish line.

“I will continue to work on our budget, tax policy, and reforms to find ways to grow our economy,” Stokes said.

Follow Mark Ballard on Twitter, @MarkBallardCnb.