I. In Focus This Week
Meet the new boss
New secretaries take over in several states
With secretaries of state taking a more public role on the national stage regarding how we conduct our elections, three new faces are joining the fray.
New Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes began her work for the voters of Kentucky long before she was sworn into office as the state’s only female Constitutional Officer earlier this month.
During her campaign Grimes promoted the grassroots work she did in her early years to make sure that all citizens had access to vote. She served as a precinct officer and was a member of the 2008 DNC Rules Committee.
Grimes defeated incumbent Secretary of State Elaine Walker in the Democratic primary and then went on to defeat Republican challenger Bill Johnson. Grimes won more votes than any other Democrat on the ballot.
According to the Herald-Leader, Grimes' goals as secretary of state include updating election laws, increasing voting access for veterans and protecting the identity of domestic-violence victims in registration records.
Before becoming secretary of state, Grimes, an attorney, worked for the National Kidney Foundation and in a private firm practicing business law.
Grimes is a native of Maysville Kentucky, received her Bachelor of Arts in political science from Rhodes College and her law degree from American Univeristy.
Although current Secretary of State Kurt Browning will stay in office to oversee Florida’s Jan. 31 primary, this week Gov. Rick Scott appointed Ken Detzner to take over the reins once the dust settles from the primary.
“I’m excited. This is one of the most exciting jobs in state government,” Detzner told the paper.
Although he had previously served as a lobbyist, Detzner didn’t have to lobby for this job.
According to a press statement at the time of the appointment announcement, Detzner was in already in the governor’s office on other business when Scott’s staff asked him if he would be interested in the job.
“I said, 'Give me 24 hours.' I was very excited just to be asked," Detzner said. "I'm excited. This is one of the most fun jobs in state government."
This will not be Detzner’s first time as the state’s top elections official. In 2003 he temporarily served as the state’s interim secretary of state under then-Governor Jeb. Bush.
According to the Miami Herald although his previous tenure as secretary of state was brief, it wasn’t without controversy albeit not about elections.
Detzner has also worked for the state’s attorney general, served as a lobbyist for the state’s beer wholesalers association and served as chief of staff to former Secretary of State Jim Smith.
The new boss in Louisiana is the same as the old boss. When former Secretary of State Jay Dardenne stepped down to seek higher office, former first assistant J. Thomas “Tom” Schedler was appointed secretary in November 2010.
Dardenne’s ascension to lieutenant governor was formally delayed to allow Schedler to be appointed to the post instead of holding a special election — an issue the state of Louisiana has struggled with.
Schedler then won a full-term as secretary of state in October 2011 in a hotly contested battle with Jim Tucker, the outgoing state Speaker of the House.
During his campaign, Schedler said that the state’s election-day hours should be shortened (currently the hours are 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.), but that more should be done to increase the number of early voting sites. Schedler also advocated reducing the number of elections Louisiana holds each year.
Before being appointed secretary of state, Schedler was appointed first assistant secretary of state in 2007 by Dardenne. Prior to that he served three terms in the Louisiana State Senate. In 2000, Schedler was named Legislator of the Year by the Alliance for Good Government.
Schedler is a native of New Orleans and graduated from the University of Louisiana, Lafayette.
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