Gov. John Bel Edwards fields questions from listeners as monthly radio show debuts _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- On his 100th day in office, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards fields questions from callers during his first "Ask the Governor" radio show with Jim Engster at Louisiana Radio Network in Baton Rouge, La.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said he disagrees with the state Ethics Board's recent decision to advise a state House candidate that she would face penalty if she uses her campaign fund to pay for a babysitter when she's hitting up fundraisers, forums and other stops on the campaign trail.

"Unfortunately, there are costs that candidates have to incur to run for office, and also to hold office," Edwards said during his monthly call-in radio show on Wednesday. "Basic childcare seems to me to be a reasonable expense. ... I hope the Ethics Board will reconsider that decision."

He also suggested that elected leaders with children could benefit from charging child care costs to their campaigns when they are actively in session.

Candidates in Louisiana routinely tap into their campaign accounts to pay for constituent gifts, athletic tickets and monthly cellphone bills among other perks, without facing penalty.

But the Ethics Board advised Morgan Lamandre, an attorney who is running for a Baton Rouge-area House seat next year, in November that "the use of campaign funds to pay for child care expenses you would incur as a result of your participation in campaign events and activities is not an allowable expenditure."

The opinion appears to set a higher standard than candidates have been held to in the past on an issue that has recently drawn national attention.

Anyone affected by the opinion — any elected official or state or local candidate in Louisiana — can ask the board to reconsider its ruling.

Lamadre's case didn't appear on the board's agenda for consideration during a meeting last week, but she's seeking reconsideration. The board's January agenda hasn't been published.

Several legislators have expressed interest in moving to explicitly address child care in the state's campaign finance laws when the Legislature meets again in April.

Louisiana, historically, has had few female legislators, compared with other states. About 14.6 percent of Louisiana's legislative seats currently are held by women. Only Oklahoma and Wyoming have smaller shares of female lawmakers, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures' 2018 figures.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.