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Term limits encourage unneeded elective post

Louisiana’s Republican Sec. of State Tom Schedler confirmed how one goes about giving away a job for life, at least during good health.

Last week, Schedler announced he wouldn’t run for a third term, as a result of a sexual harassment suit brought against him recently. An employee accuses him of, if not stalking-like, obsessive behavior towards her that interfered with her personal and professional lives, while he says they had a consensual sexual relationship.

If there’s one statewide office the least infused with politics that enables it occupants to stay as long as they like – since the aftermath of the former Gov. Huey Long era previous office occupants left only out of progressive ambition or ill health – it’s this one. Typically, when desired, holders cruise to reelection.

Had Schedler tried this, that streak likely would have come to an end. Regardless of the he-said-she-said nature of the complaint, it indisputably appears that Schedler created a deadhead position for her, whether from spite at her rejection of his advances. That poses not just a problem of managerial competence – allowing waste of taxpayer dollars – but, if verified, breaks the law as well. Even a Democrat could defeat Schedler heads-up in this environment.

While 68, Schedler may have had another term or two left in him. Instead, now the office goes into a state of flux not seen in three decades. Long-serving former Sec. of State Fox McKeithen resigned in 2005 for health reasons, with the Constitution providing that his first assistant, former state Sen. Al Ater, take over until the next scheduled election, which given the time length prior to that meant a special election first. Ater choosing not to run, now Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne won that, and brought in Schedler, term-limited from the state Senate where they had served together, after he won the regular election in 2007.

Schedler took over when Dardenne ran for, and won, lieutenant governor in 2010. With less than a year to serve, he could wait on the 2011 regular election when he narrowly defeated former House Speaker Jim Tucker. Following the incumbency pattern, he handily won reelection in 2015.

Although former Speaker Joe Salter and former state Rep, Wayne Waddell hold senior positions in the department, no one of the senior staff has expressed interest in running to replace Schedler. This comes as some relief for dozens of term-limited legislators wishing to extend their careers who suddenly have a vacancy in the elected official inn.

Regardless, Schedler’s withdrawal provides an opportunity to make the position appointive, as do a dozen states (a couple by their legislatures). Precisely its desirability of little political content that means the occupant must make few controversial decisions that could damage reelection chances, also means it has little inherent need for popular election. However, Louisiana’s legislators generally loathe the chance to excise elective offices they later potentially could occupy, and no bill yet has been filed during this regular legislative session to do that.

So, let the jockeying begin for a once-in-a-generation to stay in a position power and, as bonus, apparently for as long as you like. Except, of course, as Schedler demonstrated, if you don’t behave.

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