Louisiana governor's race top of Saturday ballot
BATON ROUGE - Louisiana's runoff election features three statewide races on Saturday's ballot, with most attention focused on the governor's race. But competitions for lieutenant governor and attorney general also await decisions.
A competitive runoff between Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards and Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter wasn't predicted months ago, when Vitter was outraising and outspending his rivals and was presumed to have an easy waltz into the governor's office.
However, Vitter took hits in a bitter primary contest between Vitter and two other GOP rivals, with campaign ads and mailers repeatedly attacking Vitter's 2007 prostitution scandal and allegations that the U.S. senator's campaign was secretly recording political foes.
Edwards led the runoff campaign in fundraising and polling, hoping to become the first Democrat to win statewide election in Louisiana since 2008. But Vitter appeared to tighten the race by referencing the Paris terrorist attacks and using the issue of Syrian refugee resettlement to tie Edwards to President Barack Obama, who is unpopular in Louisiana.
At least $30 million has been spent by candidates and outside groups, making it one of the highest spending governor's races in state history. The seat is open because Gov. Bobby Jindal is term-limited after eight years in office.
The lieutenant governor's runoff between Democrat Kip Holden and Republican Billy Nungesser has been a quieter competition, with the two men trying to build off grassroots support and name recognition.
Holden, the Baton Rouge mayor, is a former City Council member and state lawmaker. Nungesser is the former president of Plaquemines Parish.
Besides being second in line to the governor, the lieutenant governor leads Louisiana's Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism and serves as the figurehead for the state's $11 billion tourism industry.
The job is open because Republican Jay Dardenne ran unsuccessfully for governor.
Republican incumbent Attorney General Buddy Caldwell is fighting to hang onto his seat amid strong competition from former Congressman Jeff Landry, who has received the endorsement of the state Republican Party.
Landry accused Caldwell of corruption and cronyism over his two terms for giving campaign contributors large contracts from the attorney general's office. Caldwell said he hired the most knowledgeable attorneys for complex litigation. He said Landry was a failed politician with too little legal experience to run the state's top law office.
Since the two men emerged from the five-candidate primary contest, Caldwell and Landry have been touting Democratic endorsements from lawyers, lawmakers and others as both GOP contenders tried to pull together the votes needed for a victory.
Two seats on the 11-member Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the state's top school board, remain to be settled. The board sets policy for more than 700,000 public school students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Also awaiting decisions on the runoff ballot are four of the state Senate's 39 seats and 14 of the 105 state House positions. Six of the House races include incumbents trying to hold onto their jobs.