Nine candidates are running in the Secretary of State’s special election that's needed because of the resignation of former Secretary Tom Schedler in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal.
At a forum, the candidates were asked what they would do to make sure that never happens again.
“We now have the strictest policy in all of state government. It is even stricter than the legislation that was passed,” said interim Secretary Kyle Ardoin.
The alleged victim of Schedler’s harassment says Ardoin, who was Assistant Secretary at the time, was aware of the harassment. Ardoin denies that allegation.
But several women in the race say despite the department’s claim of a strict new no-tolerance policy, there’s still work that needs to be done.
Democrat Renee Fontenot Free says her positive reputation and management style while in the Attorney General’s office and as a former Assistant Secretary of State promoted a culture that empowered victims to come forward.
“I’ve been responsible for 800 employees, and they know they can always come to me if there’s an issue. I’ve proven that with my experience.”
Turkey Creek Mayor Heather Cloud says in her years managing her shipping company, she’s never had an incident of sexual harassment, because everyone knew it wouldn’t be tolerated.
“Not once have I ever had an instance of sexual harassment. I’ve set the boundaries and I’m a no nonsense kind of woman.”
Kenner Representative Julie Stokes brought up a moment two years ago on the legislative floor where a colleague introduced an amendment considered sexist by some. She says her stand, excoriating the body for what she says is a culture of disrespect to women was proof that she won’t put up with harassment.
“I took action for women and made sure that people knew that that kind of conduct was not going to be tolerated.”