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|Ater says no to governor's race|
Former Secretary of State Al Ater of Ferriday on Wednesday dismissed talk that he would be a candidate for governor this fall.
Instead, Ater said he's focused on tending to his 8,000-acre farming operation in Concordia and Tensas parishes and running a cotton brokerage business he acquired last year. One of Ater's sons recently joined him in running those endeavors.
"I will not be a candidate for governor this year," Ater said. "I am committed to my family and my family farming operation."
According to Ater, he was approached by a number of individuals who asked him to oppose Gov. Bobby Jindal in this fall's governor's race. Ater declined to name the people who talked to him about running for governor.
News of Ater possibly opposing Jindal first surfaced over the weekend in a published report in The (Baton Rouge) Advocate. The Advocate reported Ater was "weighing his options" on entering the governor's race.
"I am flattered and humbled by the number of people who talked to me about running for governor, but the timing simply isn't right," Ater said. "I've got my hands full tending to my family, my farms and my other business interests."
Ater, a 57-year-old Democrat, recently stepped down as first assistant to Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon. He joined Donelon's staff a couple of years ago to assist with legislative issues.
Ater said he left the insurance commissioner's office to focus on farming and the cotton brokerage business he bought in 2010.
When Secretary of State Fox McKeithen died in 2005, Ater became interim secretary of state and served in that capacity until a special election was held in November 2006 to name McKeithen's successor. Ater joined McKeithen's staff as first assistant secretary of state in March 2005, shortly after McKeithen was injured in an accident at his home that left him paralyzed.
Ater chose not to run in the November 2006 special election.
As secretary of state, Ater was credited for his work in overseeing the mayoral election in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. He juggled disputes over the date in which the election should be held, a dispute that landed in federal district court in New Orleans.
Prior to joining McKeithen's staff as first assistant, Ater worked beginning in 2004 for Commissioner of Insurance Robert Wooley. He served as Wooley's first assistant as well.
In 2001, Ater returned to public service after a nine year hiatus to work for McKeithen the first time around. It was during that period that Ater spearheaded the move to fold the commissioner of elections office into the secretary of state's office. The commissioner of elections post was an elected position until the state Legislature abolished it following a scandal that sent then-Commissioner of Elections Jerry Fowler to federal prison. Fowler has since died.
Ater got into politics in 1983 when he was 29 years old. He was elected that year to the District 21 seat in the state House of Representatives, representing Catahoula, Concordia and Tensas parishes. He won the election in the primary among a crowded field of candidates.
Four years later, in 1987, Ater was re-elected without opposition.
Ater chose not to seek re-election in 1991 and returned to farming, a vocation he's been involved in since he was a child.