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The 2019 election is an off year in most places, but three states (Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi) have statewide elections that include the office of Secretary of State. electionline’s Mindy Moretti has a preview of all three races in this week’s newsletter:
Incumbent Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes (D) chose not to seek a third term so Republican Michael Adams will face Democrat Heather French Henry to be the commonwealth’s new secretary.
Adams became the first member of either side of his family to earn a college degree when he graduated from the University of Louisville. He later earned a JD from Harvard Law. For the last 11 years Adams has served as the general counsel for the Republican Governor’s Association.
According to Adams, who served on the Kentucky State Board of Elections before stepping down to run for secretary of state, he’s running to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat. He is seeking to reduce wait times for early voting, make voting by mail easier and allow change of party registration to be available to residents until the voter registration deadline. He also supports enacting a photo ID law, would work to clean up the voter rolls and improve cybersecurity.
“The time has never been more important to have someone in this office that can restore credibility and tranquility to this office,” Adams told the Murray Ledger & Times. “And if there is any office in Kentucky politics that needs to be above politics and above suspicion, it’s the chief election official because this person has to be fair and neutral and objective and play it straight, and we haven’t had that in this office the last eight years.”
French Henry is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art & Planning. She has served both Governor Steve Beshear (D) and Governor Matt Bevin (R) as the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs. During her year of service as Miss America 2000 French Henry focused on veteran’s affairs, particularly homeless veteran’s. In 2002, the Heather French Henry Homeless Veterans Assistance Act was approved by Congress.
French Henry supports making voting more accessible by extending polling hours on Election Day, she is a proponent of restoring voting rights to ex-felons who have completed the terms of their sentence, she hopes to partner with K-12 teachers on civics education and she believes it’s important to partner with the state’s county clerks.
French Henry supports a voter ID law, but believes that free IDs should be made available to low-income residents.
Incumbent Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin (R) failed to clear the 50 percent plus on threshold in Louisiana’s recent election so he will face Gwen Collins-Greenup (D) in a runoff on November 16. The two first faced each other in a 2018 special election for the secretary of state’s office.
Ardoin was first appointed secretary of state in May of 2018 and then won a special election for the seat later that year. He is now running for his first full four-year term. Before being appointed in May 2018 Ardoin has served as first assistant for eight years.
“I am not running for this office as a stepping stone. I love this office and I have dedicated nearly a decade of my life to it. I know what I’m doing and we do this job well,” Ardoin writes on his campaign website.
“People come from around the world to see how Louisiana elections work. With upgrades to our voting machines coming and those who are threatening to disrupt our election process, we need a steady hand in the secretary of state’s office. I have the experience needed to keep this office on course.”
Ardoin serves on the National Association of Secretaries of State’s Elections Committee and has testified before the U.S. Election Assistance Commission seeking more funding for state election officials to secure elections.
Collins-Greenup began her career as a legal secretary at Louisiana Department of Labor. She later served as a deputy clerk of court at East Feliciana Parish Clerk of Court and a director at Baton Rouge City Court.
She earned her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Accounting from Liberty University, and her Master of Divinity degree in Professional Ministries from Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary. She earned her Juris Doctor cum laude from Southern University Law Center.
Collins-Greenup told The Advocate the lack of post-election paper audits and the state’s failure to have new machines in time for major election cycles should be major concerns.
“We didn’t get them, so I’m looking to replace our outdated voting machines,” she said. “My platform is pretty simple – protecting Louisiana.”
Longtime Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann (R) is running for the lieutenant governor’s position leaving the secretary’s seat open. Democrat Johnny Dupree will take on Republican Michael Watson.
Dupree has earned a bachelor’s and master’s from the University of Southern Mississippi and a doctorate from Jackson State University. He entered public service in 1987, when he was appointed to the Hattiesburg Public School Board where he served as secretary and president. In 1991, he was elected to the Forrest County Board of Supervisors where he served for 10 years before running for mayor of Hattiesburg in 2001. He served as mayor of Hattiesburg from 2001 to 2017.
As part of his platform, Dupree would like to expand voter education including developing a secretary of state election certification program for college credit; increase access to the polls by, among other things allowing voter registration up to 15 days before an election; and increase overall voter turnout by moving state elecitons to the same year as federal elections.
Watson was first elected to the state senate in 2007 and has twice been re-elected. Watson earned a B.B.A. and a J.D. from the University of Mississippi. His professional experience includes working as an attorney. According to Ballotpedia, Watson’s top three priorities if elected are: 1. To ensure clean, fair and secure elections. 2. To minimize the regulatory burden on businesses. 3. To move the DMV under the Secretary of State’s office.
Watson is a strong proponent of the state’s voter ID law and would work to implement proof-of-citizenship laws in the Mississippi.
“We need to make sure only citizens of the United States are eligible and allowed to register and vote in Mississippi. To accomplish this, I will work to follow a path successfully taken by other states and support legislation to allow the Secretary of State’s office to run a newly registered voter’s identification information through security screens to confirm legal citizenship. “
As this blog’s readers know, Secretaries of State play a key role in the administration of elections – not just in their own states, but also as members of the national election community. Consequently, the winners of the three races above will be important players on American elections in 2020 and beyond. Stay tuned …