La. treasurer candidates launch TV ads; analyst calls them 'flimsy' on duties of office

La. treasurer candidates launch TV ads; analyst calls them 'flimsy' on duties of office
Updated: Sep. 21, 2017 at 7:24 PM CDT
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Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

(WAFB) - With less than a month until election day, TV ads for the Louisiana treasurer's race are starting to hit the airwaves. However, political analyst, Jim Engster, warns some of those ads should be taken with a grain of salt.

The ads tout what the top candidates want to do in office, many of them offering big promises.

"Angele Davis stands with President Trump to create new jobs, cut wasteful government spending," says one ad for the Davis campaign.

"We must stop cuts to education, healthcare, and wasteful government spending," says Derrick Edwards in his ad.

"Neil Riser will fight for drainage and infrastructure to be top priorities in the state budget," Riser's ad says.

"I will have the guts to say, 'No.' No to bigger government, no to wasteful spending, and no to raising your taxes," says John Schroder, looking directly into the camera.

There is just one big problem with the promises in these ads: "They have about as much a role in cutting taxes as the LSU football coach does," said Engster, noting that the treasurer's post is largely ministerial.

Senator John Kennedy, who served in the office for more than a decade, says the treasurer sits on dozens of commissions and panels, oversees the state's unclaimed property program and the bond commission, and works on annualizing state debt. During his time in the office, Kennedy worked to expand the role of the office, as well to turn it into a "watchdog" post.

"I felt like the treasurer's job was to stand up for taxpayers and to make his feelings [about fiscal policy] known. I certainly made mine known," said Kennedy.

RELATED: Five candidates enter La. treasurer race on first day of qualifying

Even so, Engster says when it comes to state spending and projects, the post offers little more than a giant megaphone. While the treasurer can use the bully pulpit to try to influence voters and lawmakers, he or she does not get a vote on the budget bill. They cannot pass legislation or change policies.

"It's not where the action is. It happens in the legislature and the executive branch of government," Engster said. The legislature crafts bills and the budget, while the governor has the power of the veto pen and can help set a policy agenda.

So why do the treasurer candidates address these issues in their ads? Engster says it could be a combination of reasons. In some ways, the treasurer's job is confusing, so politicians take a more personal approach. Also, they need to draw in eyeballs during an off-year election. Talking about bonds is not that exciting. And Engster points out, there's another possibility, too.

"Treasurers sometimes have ambition beyond the office they're holding and this will probably be a stepping stone for whoever wins the race," said Engster.

This would not be unprecedented. Both Kennedy and former Senator Mary Landrieu used the office as a launchpad to D.C. and the U.S. Senate.

There are two other candidates in this race: Republican Terry Hughes and Libertarian Joseph Little. Neither had TV commercials as of this post.

Election day is slated for Saturday October 14. Julie Stokes was also a candidate in the race, but dropped out after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

RELATED: Politicians, leaders wear pink in support of Julie Stokes after breast cancer diagnosis

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