The race for governor in Louisiana has been quiet, to say the least, with no strong opponent yet announced to oppose Gov. Bobby Jindal in his bid for re-election.
So far, what drama there is in the field of statewide races has come in the campaign for secretary of state.
Outgoing Louisiana Speaker of the House Jim Tucker has announced that he’ll run against fellow Republican Tom Schedler, the incumbent, in this fall’s election. Schedler assumed office when Jay Dardenne, his predecessor, became lieutenant governor, and is relatively new to the job.
Caroline Fayard, a Democrat who ran second to Dardenne in the lieutenant governor’s race last year, has expressed interest in running for secretary of state, but has not formally announced her candidacy.
We would be greatly surprised if the secretary of state’s race captured the imaginations of most voters. Most people, we assume, don’t spend much time thinking about the secretary of state’s functions and activities.
But the office does important work. We hope the field of candidates, which now includes two experienced political figures, inspires some thoughtful debate about how the office can best be managed.
The secretary of state oversees elections in Louisiana, manages the state archives and registers corporations that do business in the state. The secretary of state also manages 17 museums. A separate system of state-funded museums is administered by the lieutenant governor.
In announcing his candidacy at a recent meeting of the Press Club of Baton Rouge, Tucker said he wants the Secretary of State’s Office to be more aggressive in helping businesses that register there. He also said he has ideas for improving how elections are managed, though he was short on specifics.
We’ve found that most campaigns for secretary of state are short on detail.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in discussions of the 17 museums under the office’s jurisdiction.
Is the division of state museums between the Lieutenant Governor’s Office and the Secretary of State’s Office the best way to manage them efficiently?
We doubt it, and Tucker acknowledged the existing arrangement was inspired more by political expedience than practicality.
At a time when the state budget is so strained, the question of efficiency regarding state museum administration should gain greater urgency.
Tucker said he’d be willing to consider merging state-sponsored museums operations.
That’s what candidates for lieutenant governor and secretary of state routinely say, though nothing substantive has resulted from those promises, as far as we can tell.
The current system of museums administered by the Secretary of State’s Office emerged piecemeal over a number of years, with little apparent sense of what these museums, collectively, are intended to accomplish. Do we need all of these museums, and if so, what are the criteria for determining their success?
In an era of ever-expanded entertainment and recreation options, museums must have a clear sense of what patrons they are trying to attract, a clear idea of how they are going to draw an audience, and a clear accounting of the costs and potential benefits of keeping the doors open.
We hope voters press candidates for secretary of state to address these concerns with specific policy proposals. That’s what elections are supposed to be about.