All of the attention so far surrounding the early-stage maneuvering for the 2023 Louisiana governor’s race has been focused on Jeff Landry and Billy Nungesser, and for good reason – so far they’ve been the ones raising all the money and making all the noise. But they aren’t the only ones positioning themselves for a run at the governor’s mansion. State Treasurer John Schroder is now making lots of noises to the effect that he’s in.
Schroder had an event in St. Tammany Parish a couple of weekends ago that raised him close to $300,000, it turns out, which is a decent bit of change this far out from the election. At the end of 2020 he was sitting on $550,000. He’s also got a leadership PAC active, though it doesn’t have any money in it (at least, it didn’t as of the end of April, per campaign finance reports filed with the state ethics board). While he isn’t in the $2 million range like Landry and Nungesser are, he’s certainly credible with respect to resources.
But can he win, and would he be worth supporting?
We’ll start with the latter question. Interestingly, the complaint against Schroder might actually be his greatest strength if he ended up as Louisiana’s governor. Namely, people say that he’s a bully and he isn’t fun to work with.
Well, the mess that Louisiana’s next governor will inherit from John Bel Edwards is going to require someone who is not a get-along, go-along politician. It’s going to require somebody who will, if you’ll pardon the Game of Thrones reference, break the wheel. Whoever takes office in 2024 will find himself or herself out of time for simply letting the state’s out-of-control budget, dysfunctional governmental systems and money-changers-in-the-temple Capitol in-crowd corruption stumble along in their current dance.
We need a bully. We need a conservative small-government Huey Long who’s able to crush the status quo and replace it with something better.
The thing about Schroder, which he’s shown in a few minor examples here and there – when the state bond commission took their hacks against woke Wall Street banks who tried to persecute gun owners and dealers, that was one, and when Schroder stood against John Bel Edwards’ efforts to sweep away unclaimed funds, it was another – is that he’s pretty stubborn and resolute. He’s not right all of the time, but he does seem to have the stones to stay in a tough fight.
That isn’t a strong suit of too many Republican politicians in Louisiana.
And Schroder’s brand is small government fiscal conservatism. He was one of the original “fiscal hawks” in the House when Bobby Jindal was governor, and while the fiscal hawks had some problems implementing discipline within the state budget at least they tried. Our guess is Schroder has learned a lot since then.
Now – has he demonstrated he has the economic competitiveness piece, which Louisiana has to have in its next governor, in hand? Not yet. But Schroder is a small businessman who happened to get into politics, so there is reason to believe he can walk that walk.
And he’s going to give you social and cultural conservatism. Schroder isn’t afraid of being canceled.
In short, from a conservative standpoint, yeah – John Schroder is supportable.
But can he win?
Schroder’s first statewide electoral victory came in 2017. That was the special election for Treasurer when the job opened up after John Kennedy won election to the Senate. Schroder won easily over Derrick Edwards in the runoff that year, 56-44 in a very low-turnout election. He only got 208,000 votes to win that race; just 13 percent of the voters bothered. That followed a rather narrow scrape in the primary. Edwards, the only Democrat, was first among six candidates with 31 percent, while Schroder pulled 24 percent to slide into the runoff ahead of Angele Davis (22 percent) and Neil Riser (18 percent). At the time, Schroder was a state representative.
A good showing. Not a blow-the-doors-off-the-political-world showing.
But two years later, Schroder had a rematch with Edwards in the primary and he got re-elected by a 60-35 margin (an independent candidate pulled 5 percent). Schroder got 769,000 votes. That’s a base of support which is competitive with Landry (855,000 votes in 2019) and Nungesser (884,000), though not quite at the same level.
Schroder would be a competitor to Landry for the conservative vote, which we’ve pegged at around 45 percent of Louisiana’s electorate in our 45-15-30-10 rule. Assuming there’s a Democrat in the race, which LSU Board of Supervisors member and former chair Mary Werner of Lake Charles and Norco state senator Gary Smith are apparently jockeying to be, there is some danger in Schroder and Landry splitting the conservative vote and opening the door for Nungesser to slide into the runoff as the Democrats’ favorite Republican.
That scenario would look an awful lot like 2015, had, say, Scott Angelle and David Vitter so eviscerated each other that Jay Dardenne been able to make a runoff with Edwards.
And given the all-out war the Advocate has launched on Landry, he’s very much a stand-in for Vitter in that scenario.
Schroder has some value as a candidate in that if the Advocate were to make Landry unviable as a gubernatorial hopeful, something we’re not convinced they can do no matter how many hit pieces they run against him, there would still be a conservative option on the ballot. But splitting the conservative vote in a jungle primary is a superbly awful way to elect the conservative governor Louisiana desperately needs. Especially if Schroder and Landry, both of whom have a tendency to get fiery and combative at times, were to start throwing bombs at each other.
We’d be a lot more supportive of this three-Republican-candidates scenario a Schroder candidacy would bring about if we had a party primary system to wash it through. It’s no wonder that Nungesser wants to keep things exactly as they are.