Republican Secretary of State Tom Schedler held onto his job by fewer than 10,000 votes against fellow GOP candidate and House Speaker Jim Tucker in Saturday’s election.
Schedler claimed victory late Saturday, but Tucker said he will wait until Tuesday for the official vote count.
Schedler held 50.53 percent of the vote against his only opponent with all 4,258 precincts reporting, according to unofficial results from the Secretary of State’s Office.
Schedler led with 447,562 votes to 438,114 for Tucker, making the final determination very narrow. About 130,000 more people voted in the governor’s race than for secretary of state.
In other statewide races, incumbents state Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain and state Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon – both Republicans – each cruised to easy re-election victories.
Four years ago, Schedler and Tucker worked as co-chairmen of the state Legislature’s Republican Caucus for about three years, often teaming up and making announcements together.
Then, Tucker became the speaker of the House under Gov. Bobby Jindal and Schedler became the first assistant in the Secretary of State’s Office to Jay Dardenne. When Dardenne became lieutenant governor last year, Schedler was automatically elevated to secretary of state.
The Secretary of State’s Office oversees elections, state archives, corporate filings and several museums throughout the state.
The tight campaign between Tucker and Schedler was fought with both candidates from the New Orleans metro area struggling to raise funds and mostly waiting until the final few weeks to launch televeision advertisements.
Every dollar may have counted because the race ended up being easily the closest of the statewide elections.
Tucker, 47, has contended he wants to bring more innovation to the office, instead of just having someone manage it. Tucker argued for changes to spur small business growth and restore the museum hours that were cut earlier this year.
Schedler, 61, said the Secretary of State’s Office has come a long way in one year by eliminating many pointless special elections, registering more voters, making more information available online and streamlining the filing process for starting a new business — via the website http://www.GeauxBiz.com — all while dealing with state budget cuts.
In the insurance commissioner election, Donelon bested Democratic challenger Donald C. Hodge with 68 percent of the votes – and 648,992 total votes with all the precincts reporting, according to unofficial results from the Secretary of State’s Office.
Hodge, a relative political newcomer without much of a campaign war chest, was Donelon’s only opponent and won 310,565 votes.
Strain’s bid for re-election in agriculture was very different from his campaign four years ago, when he faced a longtime incumbent.
Strain drew challenges from two opponents with little financial backing.
The Republican incumbent drew 638,878 votes, or 66.72 percent, according to unofficial results.
His opponents — Democrat Jamie LaBranche and Reform Party candidate Belinda “B” Alexandrenko — together collected 33.28 percent of the vote.
Strain held a huge party after signing up to run for a second term. On election night, he was more subdued, watching the returns at his Spanish Town campaign headquarters, which doubles as his second home.
LaBranche, a horticulturist, said he ran because he had ideas, including focusing on alternative crops. Alexandrenko, who has a radio show, vowed to help farmers and others cope with climate extremes.
As for the secretary of state’s race, the campaigns did become personal.
When Schedler took over the job last year, he said Tucker congratulated him.
After Tucker decided against seeking a state Senate seat, Schedler said Tucker asked him not to run and to serve as Tucker’s first assistant in the Secretary of State’s Office.
A key point of contention in the race was Tucker arguing that Schedler erred by taking an $861,000 state budget cut this year entirely out of museum operations and hours.
Schedler said he had no choice because 92 percent of the office’s $81 million budget is tied up in elections. He argued that Tucker and the state Legislature should have done more to limit the budget cuts.
Both agreed though that there is a need to look at the way state museums are overseen. Some are under Schedler while others are under the lieutenant governor.
Editor Mark Ballard contributed to this report.