State Treasurer John Kennedy is seeking a fifth term as Louisiana’s chief elected financial official.
And for the first time since he won election in 1999, Kennedy has an opponent, Baton Rouge lawyer Jennifer Treadway, who is best known for representing an Iberville Parish truck stop in effort to keep Tony, a Bengal tiger, on exhibit.
Under the Constitution, the treasurer is responsible for the custody, investment and disbursement of state funds. By law, the treasurer also chairs the State Bond Commission — overseeing government borrowing for construction — and manages the state program that returns unclaimed property to rightful owners.
Kennedy says he is running on his record of protecting and growing taxpayer dollars and opposing the powers that be when he thinks poor fiscal decisions are being made. Treadway counters he has not done enough.
Kennedy and Treadway face off on the Oct. 24 primary election ballot. Both are Republicans.
Treadway has reported about $20,000 in campaign receipts. She’s doing “old school” campaigning, traveling across the state and going to as many events as she can, as well as using social media and a network of family and friends.
Kennedy’s sitting on about $2.8 million in campaign funds after spending $1 million recently for broadcast, cable and radio ads. “I want the people of the state to remember what I stand for,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy said he is proud that the Treasurer’s Office has generated an average of $200 million in revenues for the state annually from investment earnings — about $3 billion over his four terms “that taxpayers don’t have to pay.”
He also points to the $400 million in unclaimed property his office has returned to Louisiana residents since he’s had the program. The program returns old savings and checking accounts, payroll checks, stocks and dividends, insurance proceeds, and oil and gas royalty payments that have been turned over to the state.
“I’m proud of the legislation I helped pass — it took six years but finally we set up a debt recovery agency in state government,” Kennedy said. At any time, he said, there is $1 billion in monies due the state and 60 percent of it is 180 days past-due revenues. He also noted his role in passing legislation aimed at reducing the costs of consulting contracts.
“I’m proud of my record standing up for the taxpayer. When governors and the legislature are correct, I’ll support them. When they do something not in taxpayers’ interest, I tend to be pretty vocal,” Kennedy said.
“I’m not part of the club ... never will be,” said Kennedy, who has butted heads with the Jindal administration on fiscal policy.
Treadway is a business and regulation attorney with a civil litigation practice.
She blames Kennedy for not standing up to Gov. Bobby Jindal and for — like Jindal — running for other jobs while he’s treasurer. Kennedy polled to test his chances for governor and U.S. senator. He has been mentioned as a candidate for U.S. Senate in the event David Vitter wins the governor’s race.
“The treasurer actually has a lot of power and I don’t believe he’s done his job to protect taxpayers from the fiscal irresponsibility of the governor,” Treadway said. “The treasurer has a constitutional duty ... to taxpayers, not to the governor, legislators or any other special interest group.”
Treadway said Kennedy should not have allowed Jindal to divert money from trust funds set up for specific purposes to balance the budget, nor should he have allowed public funds to be spent on State Police protection for Jindal while he campaigns for president.
“I would have challenged that,” she said. “I would have done the job, not been running for other offices, done the job taxpayers paid me to do.”
Treadway advocates for a constitutional convention, which among other things should look at reducing the number of state colleges and universities, and shrinking government. She said she would go over the state audits closely to see where spending changes can be made.
Kennedy said Treadway is entitled to her opinion. But he pointed to times he’s challenged Jindal and paid the consequences for it via a cut to his department’s budget.
“I welcome the competition. We will let the voters decide,” he said. “There’s no such thing as token opposition. Ask Eric Cantor,” referring to a U.S. House leader who was ousted.
Follow Marsha Shuler on Twitter, @MarshaShulerCNB.