gwen collins-greenup

Gwen Collins-Greenup

How far can $1,500 go in 2018?      

The once lofty sum can’t cover monthly mortgage for many Americans. It can’t buy a used car -- not even a clunker.

Yet it was adequate enough to send a candidate to the Dec. 8 runoff for the third highest office in state government, as Gwen Collins-Greenup proved on Nov. 6.

Pollsters accurately projected interim officeholder Kyle Ardoin would emerge the statewide frontrunner in the race to fill the rest of the term after Tom Schedler’s resignation amid sexual harassment charges.

Ardoin and Greenup each drew 20 percent of the vote -- 298,567 for Ardoin, 289,097 for Greenup. She drew 2,628 votes for a sixth-place finish in Livingston Parish.

Most of the pre-election speculation focused on Republican state Reps. Rick Edmonds and Julie Stokes. Both brought a solid degree of name recognition to a ballot top-heavy with GOP candidates.

Very few Louisianians, if any, expected Greenup would emerge runner-up -- perhaps not even Greenup herself, who entered the battle with a $2,600 campaign war chest.

Greenup, an African-American Democrat, entered the race with minimal name recognition outside her hometown of Clinton. She did not run ad spots. Her campaign signs did were few and far between and were relegated predominately to urban areas.

So who is Gwen Collins-Greenup? According to her website, she is a public servant, minister, wife, mother and lifelong resident of Louisiana.

Greenup holds degrees in accounting and earned a juris doctorate, cum laude, from Southern University.

She also operated a real estate title abstracting and closing practice and worked as a deputy clerk of court with the East Feliciana Clerk of Court Office.

Not bad credentials for public office, but the runner-up spot for the state probably had more than few jaws dropping after the final vote tabulations on Election Day.

She led East Baton Rouge Parish with 28 percent of the vote and outdrew Ardoin by 10 percent.

Greenup finished runner-up to Democrat Renee Fontenot Free, with 35 percent of the vote in Orleans Parish, along with a 21 percent showing in densely populated Jefferson Parish.

Town hall meetings, luncheons and visits to civic groups comprised the bulk of Greenup’s campaign stops.

She did not gain the backing of the state Democratic Party, which threw its support behind Free, who previously worked in the office on the ballot and now works for state Attorney General Jeff Landry.

Greenup certainly used the digital route effectively, both in terms of her website and social media. The amount of money she spent on those components probably was not much more than pocket change.

Some state political pundits also brought to light the strong turnout at the polls, particularly by women.

The reasons behind the record-high turnout for mid-term elections perplexed Livingston Parish Registrar of Voters Jared Andrews and likely the majority of his counterparts statewide.

Some attributed it to local elections, others pointed to a nationwide resurgence in voter participation, perhaps because of strong sentiment -- both pro and con -- for President Donald Trump.

Voter demographics also showed that women have played much a stronger role. Four women ran on the secretary of state ballot -- two Republicans, two Democrats --- and accounted for 70,000 more votes than their male counterparts.

Social media and demographics may have contributed largely to Greenup’s success, but an old-fashioned grass-roots campaign perhaps played the biggest role.

Regardless what fueled her success, the name Gwen Collins-Greenup became much more familiar throughout the state in the aftermath of the Nov. 6 primary.

Who said $1,500 can’t buy much in 2018?

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