Free wants to restore trust to state office

Renee Fontenot Free, a Louisiana secretary of state candidate, said she wants to restore trust to the office and strip away partisan politics from the job.

A Democrat and Lake Charles native, Free is one of nine candidates running for the office in the Nov. 6 election. Tom Schedler — who served as secretary of state since 2010 — announced his resignation in late April amid allegations of sexual harassment from a department employee. Interim Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin said he intends to run in the upcoming election.

“You’re not going to get voter apathy to go away with no trust of the people at the top,” Free told the American Press editorial board on Monday. “Otherwise, it’s going to stay the same or continue to get worse.”

Free said elected officials “have to work together to make progress.” She said she hasn’t seen state officials work as closely, despite party affiliation, as they did immediately after Hurricane Katrina’s 2005 landfall.

“It’s getting worse instead of better,” Free said. “With all these special sessions, it’s insanity. It’s just costing us more.”

This is Free’s first time running for political office. She worked for the secretary of state’s office from 2004 until 2008, as first assistant for Fox McKeithen, until his death in 2005, followed by Al Ater. She later worked as deputy secretary of state under Jay Dardenne.

Free said she was part of the team that made sure the elections went smoothly after Hurricane Katrina.

Free worked for the Louisiana Attorney General’s office from 1990 to 2004 and returned in 2008. She said she took a leave of absence in May to focus on her campaign.

“It’s truly a grassroots-type of effort,” Free said. “I put everything on the line to do this because I feel like I have a lot to offer in that office.”

The key to improving voter turnout starts with the youth, Free said. She said she wants to introduce lessons on elections that are more exciting for students.

“If you can get those people engaged in the election process, then you have them for the rest of their lives,” Free said.

Free said she taught classes that helped students get to know their elected officials better. She said the topic that gets students interested in voting has to be something that holds their interest, like social media.

If elected, Free said she has no plans to seek any other political office besides secretary of state. The Louisiana Democratic Party last week endorsed Free for the secretary of state’s office.

The field of candidates also includes fellow Democrat Gwen Collins-Greenup, along with Republicans Heather Cloud, A.G. Crowe, Rick Edmonds, Thomas Kennedy III and Julie Stokes. Matthew Moreau is running as a no party candidate.

‘You’re not going to get voter apathy to go away with no trust of the people at the top.’ 

Renee Fontenot Free

Candidate for secretary of state

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Renee Fontenot Free is one of nine candidates running for secretary of state.

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