Just a few months into his bid to become Louisiana’s next secretary of state, LSU law professor Chris Tyson’s criticism of the current officeholder is subtle.
Tyson — the son of the late Chief U.S. District Judge Ralph E. Tyson — doesn’t even mention Secretary of State Tom Schedler’s name during a brief phone interview.
Tyson just says things can always be handled more efficiently while adding that he plans to unveil ways to expand voters’ access to the ballot box.
Behind the scenes, Schedler said, Tyson is more aggressive. “He’s out there telling people I’m retiring. I’m not retiring,” Schedler said.
For a low-key job that entails elections, museums and business incorporations, the race for the secretary of state’s office has become a heated political battle in years past. The upcoming election in 2015 looks to be no different.
Schedler, a 64-year-old Republican, plans to run for re-election. So far, Tyson, a 38-year-old Democrat, appears to be his only competition.
Schedler is a political veteran who was a state senator before becoming secretary of state. Tyson is a political newcomer with a background in real estate law. Yet, Tyson only lags Schedler by $25,859.45 in campaign cash.
“(Schedler’s) got to go raise some money, and he’s got to put on a campaign. Tom’s not been involved in any controversy, so I think he’s relatively safe,” longtime political consultant Roy Fletcher said.
In 2011, Schedler ran against then-House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Terrytown, for the remainder of a term and a new four-year term. The office became vacant when Jay Dardenne won a race for lieutenant governor.
Schedler and Tucker were legislative colleagues. They worked together as leaders in the Legislature’s Republican Caucus. Then, they ran against each other for secretary of state.
Schedler, who was Dardenne’s first assistant before elevating to secretary of state with Dardenne’s departure, defended the office’s track record. Tucker hit him on museum budget cuts and a supposed lack of innovation.
Tucker spent $630,906 on the race and loaned his campaign $500,000. Schedler invested $350,000 into his campaign. In the end, Schedler held onto the job by fewer than 10,000 votes.
Tyson started raising money in October and quickly accumulated $82,094.21. He loaned the campaign roughly $6,000 to maintain cash flow.
Schedler’s contributions also came in toward the latter part of 2013. He started with zero dollars in his campaign account and added $108,375 in cash.
Tyson said he turned to family and friends for contributions before ramping up more aggressive fundraising efforts.
“We are at the very beginning. 2015 is still a ways away. We’re very encouraged,” he said.
Schedler said most of Tyson’s contributions seemed to come from people outside Louisiana. Those supporters can’t show their support with a vote on election day, he said.
“Once you get past family and friends out of state, it gets a little harder,” Schedler said.
Tyson said he plans to hold several fundraising events around his March 31 birthday. He said he is in it to run a statewide campaign.
“I haven’t set any hard targets for this year,” Tyson said. “I’m just trying to continue outreach.”
Tyson said the job interests him because the secretary of state’s office involves duties that are at the intersection of democracy and economy.
“I understand the importance of business. I can speak credibly about civic engagement,” he said.
Schedler said he wants to have at least $500,000 in the bank for his re-election bid.
“My focus is on Louisiana contributors. He comes from a respected family. I applaud him. I’ve been at this a long time,” he said.