After months of relentless campaigning, the denouement of Louisiana’s most expensive election begins when polls open at 7 a.m. Saturday.
Both candidates spent Friday making their final pleas for votes. Three-term incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-New Orleans, began the day in Lake Charles, rallied in Lafayette, lunched in Baton Rouge and ended the day in Metairie.
U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, had two events — his first since Monday night’s televised debate — with Republican Senator-elect Joni Ernst, of Iowa.
Landrieu is the last Democratic senator in the Deep South and in 2008 was the last to be elected statewide. She has been fighting a red tide that has seen the Legislature and major state offices go to Republicans.
Landrieu has been the subject of dozens of articles by national media outlets over the past few days.
“I don’t pay attention to it,” Landrieu said, adding that three times she has entered the final week of the campaign behind in the polls, yet won on Election Day.
“It’s routine for me. I have every expectation of winning,” she said Friday.
Cassidy, gathered with about 75 supporters at Louisiana Republican Party satellite office in Metairie, reprised his criticism of Landrieu’s support of an unpopular president. He led a call and response of “97 percent of the time,” an allusion to how often he says Landrieu supports President Barack Obama.
Landrieu repeated her criticism of the past few days about whether Cassidy performed the part-time LSU physician-educator work he was being paid for.
“This race may be over at 8 o’clock,” Landrieu said, “but this investigation will go on.”
The new and the old
The 6th District Congressional contest pits Republican Garret Graves, 42, in his first bid for elected office against former four-term Democrat Gov. Edwin Edwards, who won his first race 60 years ago for the Crowley City Council.
The district extends from southeast Baton Rouge to the suburbs west of New Orleans and through the bayou communities into parts of Houma.
It is considered one of the most GOP-friendly districts in the nation, and eight GOP contenders split 64 percent of the vote in the Nov. 4 primary.
Edwards, 87, led the field with 30 percent of the vote to 27 percent for Graves, a former aide to Gov. Bobby Jindal who oversaw the state’s coastal restoration efforts.
The seat is now held by Cassidy.
While the runoff has been a low-key affair, the race sparked national attention because of Edwards’ bid for a comeback after serving nearly a decade in prison on a racketeering conviction.
Local seats up for grabs
On the ballot in the New Orleans area, besides the Senate contest, are runoffs for numerous other offices, including Plaquemines Parish president and district attorney in St. Tammany Parish.
Except in St. John, all area voters can cast ballots for a seat on the state Public Service Commission. Incumbent Eric Skrmetta faces challenger Forest Bradley Wright.
In Orleans Parish, the ballot also includes a Civil District Court judgeship, a Juvenile Court judgeship and a 10-year, 4.97-mill Orleans Parish School Board tax proposition to pay for school repairs and maintenance by extending and shifting the purpose of an existing tax.
In Jefferson Parish, the ballot includes a 24th Judicial District Court judgeship, a 1st Parish Court judgeship, two School Board seats, a justice of the peace, a constable and 11 amendments to the parish’s Home Rule Charter.
In St. Tammany Parish, the headline race is the runoff for district attorney of the 22nd Judicial District, which also includes Washington Parish. Warren Montgomery and Brian Trainor are vying to succeed longtime DA Walter Reed. There also are runoffs for mayor, police chief and three Board of Aldermen seats in Pearl River, plus a mayor’s runoff in Folsom.
The St. Bernard Parish ballot includes a 34th Judicial District Court judgeship, three constables, an amendment to the parish charter and 12 millage propositions, mostly renewals, for libraries, recreation, roads, fire protection, levees and other purposes.
In Plaquemines Parish, besides the runoff for parish president between Amos Cormier Jr. and Jerry Hodnett, the ballot includes two Parish Council seats and a School Board seat.
The St. Charles Parish ballot includes three justices of the peace in addition to the Edwards-Graves 6th Congressional District race and the Public Service Commission contest.
In St. John the Baptist Parish, voters will cast ballots for only two offices: U.S. senator and 6th Congressional District representative.
40 percent turnout expected
Secretary of State Tom Schedler said he expects about 1.2 million — or 40 percent — of the state’s 2.9 million registered voters to cast ballots.
“Based on early voting statistics and historical data, I believe turnout will reach 40 to 42 percent for tomorrow’s general election,” Schedler said.
The Nov. 4 open primary vote saw 1.47 million votes cast or about 51.5 percent of registered voters. Though Landrieu led the field, 56 percent of the votes cast went to a Republican candidate.
But last month, Louisiana was part of national election and was poised to play a role in which party would control the U.S. Senate. Decisive GOP wins mean that when the new Congress is sworn in next month, Republicans will control both houses. With that, the rest of the country pretty much lost interest in what happens here.
Also, Southern University is playing for SWAC Championship at 3 p.m. in Houston and deer hunting opens fully on Saturday. Schedler said he expected a surge of votes when the polls opened and then could see another spike later in the day when the hunters come out of the woods. Polls close at 8 p.m.