Republican Jake LaTurner was the youngest statewide officeholder in the U.S. when appointed state treasurer by then-Gov. Sam Brownback.
The 30-year-old is intent on earning the job Nov. 6 by defeating Democratic Party nominee Marci Francisco, a state senator from Lawrence.
“I’ve really loved being state treasurer for the last year and a half,” LaTurner told The Topeka Capital-Journal’s editorial advisory board. “I’m running for a full four-year term.”
He dismissed Francisco’s pledge to serve all four years of a term as state treasurer. In doing so, she hinted at speculation LaTurner coveted the U.S. House seat held by retiring U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins. If the seat is won in November by Democrat Paul Davis rather than Republican Steve Watkins, LaTurner could reasonably run for that post in 2020.
“She’s dusted off an old playbook with some of her attacks in the campaign,” LaTurner said.
LaTurner was in his second term as a senator from southeast Kansas when named treasurer by Brownback. LaTurner replaced Ron Estes, who won a special election for the U.S. House seat vacated by Mike Pompeo, who serves now as U.S. secretary of state.
In Kansas, the state treasurer has responsibility for identifying rightful owners of unclaimed property and for oversight of state savings programs, including the Learning Quest 529 Education Savings initiative.
In advance of the August primary, LaTurner and his family appeared in a television commercial promoting college savings that was part of a $200,000 marketing campaign. Republican and Democratic state treasurers have taken advantage of similar free publicity, and LaTurner defended his role in the ad.
A relatively new state law forbids airing these commercials from June through November -- a period in which political advantage could be gained by an incumbent treasurer. LaTurner said influence of the commercial on the election was negligible and he supported the blackout law.
“That’s appropriate legislation. In an abundance of caution, we ended a month before we had to with our ad,” he said.
As state treasurer, LaTurner said he sought to modernize the marketing approach of the treasurer’s office with use of social media. He reduced the office’s workforce from 40 to 34 through attrition. He implemented staff-friendly policies, including work-from-home options and the ability to bring kids to work.
“The thing I brought with me the most, if you put a thread through all my experiences, it’s been about customer service,” LaTurner said.
He said the job of state treasurer should remain an elective office rather than an appointee of a governor.
“The primary reason people should care about the treasurer’s office is to be a check on the administration. You should want someone independent of them looking at the books,” LaTurner said.
In the future, he intends to introduce an online system that gives the public access to state spending records at the transaction level. The information will be available to the public without filing an open records request, he said.