There are nine candidates on next month’s ballot for Louisiana's secretary of state, including four current or former elected officials, each with his or her own natural constituency. One major candidate who has not run before has a niche too, both as a top official in the secretary of state and attorney general offices and also as the lone major Democrat.

Yet somehow, a guy who wasn’t even supposed to be on the ballot is managing to dominate much of the discussion.

Kyle Ardoin, the former first assistant who stepped up as interim after Tom Schedler resigned and originally promised he wouldn’t seek the job permanently, showed up at the Baton Rouge Press Club Monday wearing a “Keep Kyle” sticker. That’s been his line since the end of qualifying, when he stunned the field by reversing his earlier commitment and claiming that the position — which includes overseeing elections — is too important to hand off to a newbie.

Ardoin was joined Monday by four of his five major opponents, Turkey Creek Mayor Heather Cloud, state Rep. Rick Edmonds, longtime state official Renee Fontenot Free, and state Rep. Julie Stokes. Former state Sen. A.G. Crowe couldn't make the event due to a personal situation. I’ll have more about all of them in an upcoming column, since Ardoin has already managed to earn more than his share of ink.

Monday, it was clear why.

Ardoin announced himself as the one candidate who doesn’t need “on the job training” — a point that Free, who once held the same first assistant job when the office had to stage the complicated, post-Katrina New Orleans election, refuted.

Ardoin was really the only one to draw criticism from his opponents, mostly over the controversial procurement of new voting machines. A losing bidder has protested the awarding of the contract, which several candidates noted is now projected to cost significantly more than originally planned. The same losing vendor accused Ardoin of bid-rigging during the process, and the state procurement office ordered him to stay out of the evaluation.

Ardoin rebutted that losing bidders file complaints all the time, and that the process is going exactly as it’s supposed to and “is gonna be fine in the end.” His critics, he added, are making hay because “they want the job I have.”

They can argue about everything else, but he’s got them on that last point.

Follow Stephanie Grace on Twitter, @stephgracela.