Louisiana Elections

Former state budget administrator Angele Davis, R-Baton Rouge, signs her paperwork to run for state treasurer with her son sitting on her lap, on Wednesday, July 12, 2017, in Baton Rouge. All the major candidates for the vacant seat qualified for the Oct. 14 ballot on the opening day of the sign-up period.

AP Photo by Melinda Deslatte

With a handful of employees and a tiny budget, narrowly focused duties that mainly involve overseeing the state's bank account, it is truly amazing what the treasurer's office can do for you.

Rebuild infrastructure without a new gasoline tax, for instance. Cut middle-class taxes. Mount a cost-free expedition to Mars in this decade.

The last is not on the list, maybe, for candidates for treasurer. But in 30 days of blather, the contenders on the Oct. 14 ballot are showing us next to nothing publicly about what they will actually do if elected.

One of the most qualified candidates is Angele Davis, the former commissioner of administration, who by virtue of her office actually sat on the State Bond Commission for a time. That is one of the real duties of the treasurer, chairing the commission. But it has next to nothing to do with state budget and tax policies.

Much less what Davis talks about in one of her spots, the poor, maligned President Donald Trump. "The liberal media attacks him unfairly, and establishment politicians don't have his back," she says. "The Trump agenda is right for our nation and our state."

Right for her election campaign is what she really means. And she is not alone in trying to find some saleable sound bites for this race that few outside of the State Capitol understand.

What is the political calculation? Three major Republican candidates — Davis and two legislators, John Schroder of Covington and Neil Riser, of Columbia — are fighting for a runoff spot. A relative nobody is Derrick Edwards, of New Orleans, who is the only Democrat on the ballot, but because of the D behind his name is thought to be likely to make the runoff. Even the Louisiana Democratic Party is not backing him.

The Republican "primary" then depends on motivating relatively few white voters to choose among the three, in a race for an office that former Treasurer John N. Kennedy used mainly as a platform to run for the U.S. Senate three times, ultimately winning last year.

Because other big elections will help boost turnout in specific areas like New Orleans — the mayor and City Council races — and Jefferson Parish local offices, a large number of votes will come from the metropolitan area. Of course, Orleans Parish is hardly a hotbed of Trump support, but Davis' ad and appeals, like those of the others, is focused on chronic GOP voters who might possibly turn out in such a low-key statewide election.

Some rural parishes where there is nothing else on the ballot might see turnout of as low as 5 or 10 percent.

Davis is from Baton Rouge, where a city judge race and an open seat on the Public Service Commission will help generate some turnout in largely white and Republican districts.

So the Trump agenda moves to the fore, in a display of political cynicism that is mirrored by the Schroder and Riser calls for the treasurer to fight for taxpayers, when the treasurer has little power to do so.

One thing that you won't hear: A promise that the winner will refuse campaign contributions from the bond lawyers and financial houses with business before the State Bond Commission. Kennedy has milked them for campaign cash for years.

That would really drain the swamp in the State Capitol. But don't expect it to happen.

Email Lanny Keller at lkeller@theadvocate.com.