WASHINGTON - Two current and one former state treasurer are vying for open U.S. Senate seats in Rhode Island, Kansas and Louisiana.
And, nine treasury seats will be decided by state voters this year; many of the races feature hot pension issues.
Among the highlights:
Democratic candidates in the two Kansas U.S. Senate races left open by retiring Sens. Nancy Kassebaum and GOP presidential nominee Robert J. Dole have shown strong interest in pensions and investment.
Two-term state Treasurer Sally Thompson is the Democratic candidate for Ms. Kassebaum's seat. Ms. Thompson is a trustee on the board of the $6.7 billion Kansas Public Employees' Retirement System, Topeka.
Her opponent, eight-term Republican U.S. Rep. Pat Roberts, is focusing his campaign attacks on a $20 million loss sustained in 1994 by the $1.3 billion Municipal Investment Pool Ms. Thompson created to manage excess tax monies for school districts and municipalities in Kansas.
At the time, Ms. Thompson explained the loss by saying, "I didn't have the experience to do the job" - a phrase Mr. Roberts has been repeating during the campaign.
The state injected money into the fund to make up the shortfall; the Legislature later stripped Ms. Thompson of some of her investment duties.
Despite the investment problems, Ms. Thompson was named to a task force in 1995 by the National Association of State Treasurers to revise its investment guidelines for municipal funds.
In the race to replace Mr. Dole, Wichita stock broker Jill Docking is running on the Democratic ticket. Ms. Docking's press aide said her background at A.G. Edwards makes her especially interested in securing retirement benefits for individuals, particularly women. Ms. Docking's platform basically supports continued benefits for older Americans, including pensions, Medicare and retiree health care. She also supports allowing individuals to manage up to 2% of their Social Security contribution in an individual retirement account.
Ms. Docking will "get involved in a big way in the debate over Social Security" if elected, the press aide said.
By contrast, Republican freshman U.S. Rep. Sam Brownback is known as an arch-conservative and has not focused on retirement issues in his Senate campaign so far.
Mr. Brownback followed the party line in supporting H.R. 2491, which repealed the 50% penalty for corporate pension withdrawals; that provision was eventually pulled out of the bill that was vetoed by President Clinton.
Mr. Brownback was among those whose refusal to compromise on a balanced budget helped cause the government shutdowns in late 1995 and early 1996.
In Rhode Island, Treasurer Nancy Mayer is the Republican nominee for the seat vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Claiborne Pell.
Ms. Mayer's campaign is portraying her as "Rhode Island's fiscal watchdog," claiming she has cut the treasurer's office budget by 24%, a claim her opponent, freshman U.S. Rep. Jack Reed, has called budget gimmickry.
Ms. Mayer attacked Mr. Reed's six-year tenure as state senator, claiming he had supported 22 separate bills that allowed for easier purchase of pension credit, voted to reduce the years of service needed to retire and voted to provide lifetime health care coverage for retirees.
Mr. Reed did vote for a 1987 bill as a member of the state senate that granted pension credit to union officers, but once the full implications of the bill became apparent, he voted in 1988 to repeal the bill, said Todd Andrews, Mr. Reed's campaign press secretary.
Mr. Reed is "deeply concerned" about a proposal to eliminate the excise tax on companies that tap their pension funds, which Ms. Mayer supports, Mr. Andrews said.
In Louisiana, conservative Republican state Rep. Woody Jenkins surprised most observers by taking first place in the 15-candidate open primary Sept. 21. Mr. Jenkins captured 26% of the votes.
Democratic former State Treasurer Mary Landrieu, the presumed front-runner going into the primary, finished second with 21% of the votes. She will go against Mr. Jenkins in November for the right to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Bennett John
Mr. Jenkins' showing throws the Louisiana Senate race, which had appeared on the verge of becoming a Democrats-only contest, into a toss-up and makes Democratic hopes of retaining the seat more tenuous. (Under Louisiana's open primary, the top two vote getters, regardless of party affiliation, face off Nov. 5.)
Ms. Landrieu, an unsuccessful candidate for governor last year, has been engaged in a running feud with former officials of the Louisiana State Employees' Retirement System in assessing blame for $42 million losses suffered by the fund in 1992-'93 in the derivatives market.
Ms. Landrieu blames a Houston brokerage firm and former fund investment executives for the losses. Others blame Ms. Landrieu.
State treasurers will be elected in nine states this fall. In four others, state lawmakers will elect the new treasurers during their next sessions.
Four races stand out for the issues in the campaigns and candidates being considered for the posts - West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Utah and Washington.
In West Virginia, Republican candidate Stanley L. Klos has caused a major stir.
Earlier this year, the Legislature passed a law creating a separate trust fund for the state's $4 billion in pension fund assets. The trust was created to maneuver around a provision in the state constitution that bans state funds from investing in equities. Mr. Klos stopped the trust from investing in equities by filing a suit that challenges the circumvention of the constitution.
Treasurer Larrie Bailey, who is not running for re-election, backs the lawsuit.
While Mr. Klos is not against equity investments, he says he is against the way West Virginia has gone around the constitution.
"I know we should go through the constitutional amendment process to make sure our citizens and taxpayers are willingly and knowingly accepting these higher risks for the possibility of higher returns in our state pension funds as they are currently doing in South Carolina," Mr. Klos said.
His opponent, Democratic candidate John Perdue, did not return phone calls for comment.
In Pennsylvania, the race is on to replace Treasurer Catherine Baker Knoll, who served the state maximum of two terms.
Her daughter, Mina Baker Knoll, is running to replace her on the Democratic ticket. The younger Ms. Baker Knoll's Republican opponent is Auditor General Barbara Hafer, who also is giving up her post after reaching her two-term limit.
Ms. Baker Knoll, a partner of the accounting firm of Deloitte & Touche, vowed in her announcement speech to run the state treasury like a business, stressing her commitment to sound investment practices and balanced budgets. For her part, Ms. Hafer has been stressing her work as auditor general, including her success at finding and correcting underfunding among local pension funds.
In Utah, tobacco and alcohol stock ownership by the Utah Retirement System, Salt Lake City, is likely to become an issue for the eventual winner of the state treasurer's race, said D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, the Democratic candidate. She said the state's large Mormon population is likely to raise the issue of the state divesting itself of its tobacco stocks.
Incumbent Edward Alter, a Republican, could not be reached for comment.
In Washington state, two candidates in each party vied for the nomination to run for state treasurer in the Sept. 17 primary. For the Democratic nomination, Mike Murphy beat out Jack Kiley. In the Republican primary, Lucy DeYoung won the nomination over Randolph J. Bell. Daniel K. Grimm, the incumbent who has been in office for eight years, isn't seeking re-election. The state treasurer is an ex-officio member of the state investment board.
Mr. Murphy is the treasurer of Thurston County, which encompasses Olympia.
Ms. DeYoung, mayor of Woodinville - a Seattle suburb - is president of Evergreen Public Finance Inc., a financial consulting firm she founded in 1988 for municipalities in the state. She previously had worked in commercial lending and investment banking.
The Republican nominee, Ms. DeYoung said she favors increasing in-state investments by state pension funds.