Candyce Perret and Susan Theall will face off in an April 29 runoff election to serve the remaining term of former appeals court Judge Jimmy Genovese, who won a seat on the state Supreme Court last year.
Neither was able to edge past the 50 percent vote requirement to avoid a runoff in Saturday's three-candidate primary election for the seat on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal.
With all 530 precincts reporting, Perret was the top vote getter, capturing 41 percent of the vote while Theall got 37 percent, according to complete but unofficial vote totals posted on the Louisiana Secretary of State's website.
Vanessa Waguespack Anseman came in third with 22 percent of the votes cast.
"I am honored and humbled at the broad support we've received from voters in the primary. I'm incredibly proud of the positive campaign I've run, focused on my qualifications for this judicial seat," Perret said in a written statement Sunday evening.
Theall said Saturday night after the returns that she plans to "hit the ground running and work as hard as I can for the next 30 days."
Theall also challenged Perret to a debate.
"Ms. Perret failed to show up for a single candidate forum in this primary, which I believe is disappointing and I believe is disappointing for voters, also. It gives voters an ideal opportunity to judge the candidates side by side."
Perret, asked to respond Sunday, said: "I'm looking forward to continuing our efforts to reach as many voters as possible in the next five weeks, including a forum with my opponent."
Theall, asked whether she will seek Anseman's support, said, “Certainly I’ll be courting her supporters.”
Anseman said her loss happened in early voting. Her political consultant, Roy Fletcher, agreed: "There was about 8,400 early votes cast; we got 700 of them.
"… The bottom line really is that if you take the early votes and you subtract votes from that and then you take the votes that have been cast tonight, then you've got a dead heat race tonight."
Fewer than 10 percent of qualified voters cast ballots in the election, with final numbers showing 40,506 of the 410,249 eligible voters came out.
Candyce Perret was the frontrunner in all but one of the eight parishes, with Lafayette Parish the outlier. Theall captured the most votes in Lafayette Parish — the most populous of the eight parishes and the one that produced the highest turnout.
The three candidates running are all Lafayette Republican attorneys.
In an off-season special election that might otherwise have been quiet, the race had Perret fielding questions about a misdemeanor citation she received for alleged indecent exposure on a Florida beach in 2004 and a restraining order filed the next year by a man alleging harassment after he and Perret had ended a relationship.
The criminal charge was dropped as part of a deferred prosecution agreement, and the restraining order was withdrawn.
Perret blamed her opponents for digging up the old incidents in an effort to tarnish her campaign.
Anseman's candidacy was threatened when the St. Landry Parish District Attorney's office, prompted by a resident's complaint, challenged her qualifications for the appeals court judgeship. Appeals court judges must have been admitted to the practice of law for at least 10 years.
The District Attorney's Office argued that Anseman, who received her law degree in 2003, was a few weeks shy of the 10-year requirement because she temporarily lost her eligibility to practice law for letting bar association dues lapse and for not keeping up continuing legal education requirements.
St. Landry Parish District Judge Alonzo Harris ruled on March 13 that Anseman did not meet the state constitutional requirement for the seat.
What's normally a subdued contest for a seat on the state 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal has be…
The state 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal reversed his ruling only a week before the election after a clarification on the eligibility dates at issue in the challenge to Anseman's candidacy showed she met the 10-year threshold.
Theall's campaign managed to avoid any major hiccups, but she lagged the other candidates in fundraising.
She received $40,238 in campaign contributions, compared with $383,586 by Perret and $97,171 by Anseman, according to the most recent campaign finance filings with the state.
Theall worked to set herself apart by touting her experience.
She has worked as an attorney for 31 years, longer than Perret or Anseman, and was the only candidate to have served as judge.
She was elected as 15th Judicial District Judge in 2011 to fill the unexpired term of Phyllis Keaty, who vacated the seat when elected to 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal, and served until 2014, when she lost her bid for re-election.
The 3rd Court of Appeal encompasses 21 parishes and is based in Lake Charles. This election is for District 3 of the 3rd Circuit, which encompasses Acadia, Allen, Evangeline, Lafayette, Iberia, St. Landry, St. Martin and Vermilion parishes.