The Louisiana secretary of state race was too close to call late Saturday with incumbent Republican Tom Schedler holding a small edge over fellow GOP candidate and House Speaker Jim Tucker.
Schedler held 50.6 percent of the vote against his only opponent, with less than 100 of 4,258 total voting precincts left to report, according to incomplete results from the Secretary of State’s Office.
That gave Schedler a lead of more than 10,000 votes out of more than 872,000 cast.
The office had Internet problems with election results.
In other statewide races, incumbents state Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain and state Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon — both Republicans — each cruised to easy re-election victories.
Four years ago, Schedler and Tucker worked as co-chairmen of the state Legislature’s Republican Caucus for about three years, often teaming up and making announcements together.
Then, Tucker became the speaker of the House under Gov. Bobby Jindal and Schedler became the first assistant in the Secretary of State’s Office to Jay Dardenne. When Dardenne became lieutenant governor last year, Schedler was automatically elevated to secretary of state.
The Secretary of State’s Office oversees elections, state archives, corporate filings and several museums throughout the state.
The tight campaign between Tucker and Schedler was fought with both candidates from the New Orleans metro area struggling to raise funds and mostly waiting until the final few weeks to launch televeision advertisements.
Tucker, 47, has contended he wants to bring more innovation to the office, instead of just having someone manage it. Tucker argued for changes to spur small business growth and restore the museum hours that were cut earlier this year.
Schedler, 61, said the Secretary of State’s Office has come a long way in one year by eliminating many pointless special elections, registering more voters, making more information available online and streamlining the filing process for starting a new business — via the website http://www.GeauxBiz.com — all while dealing with state budget cuts.
In the insurance commissioner election, Donelon bested Democratic challenger Donald C. Hodge with 68.05 percent of the votes — and 636,893 total votes with 4,126 of 4,258 total precincts reporting, according to incomplete results from the Secretary of State’s Office.
Hodge, a relative political newcomer without much of a campaign war chest, was Donelon’s only opponent.
Hodge criticized Donelon for taking contributions from insurance companies.
Donelon will hold onto the job he has had for five years.
Strain’s bid for re-election in agriculture was very different from his campaign four years ago, when he faced a longtime incumbent.
Since 2008, Strain has faced budget challenges but touted his work at cutting his agency’s fleet of vehicles.
He said he wants to focus on attracting more farmers to agriculture in the next four years.
Strain drew challenges from two opponents with little financial backing.
The Republican incumbent drew 627,944 votes, or 67.19 percent, according to incomplete results.
His opponents — Democrat Jamie LaBranche and Reform Party candidate Belinda “B” Alexandrenko — together collected 32.8 percent of the vote, with 4,129 of 4,258 precincts in.
Strain held a huge party after signing up to run for a second term. On election night, he was more subdued, watching the returns at his Spanish Town campaign headquarters, which doubles as his second home.
LaBranche, a horticulturist, said he ran because he had ideas, including focusing on alternative crops. Alexandrenko, who has a radio show, vowed to help farmers and others cope with climate extremes.
As for the secretary of state’s race, the campaigns did become personal.
When Schedler took over the job last year, he said Tucker congratulated him.
After Tucker decided against seeking a state Senate seat, Schedler said Tucker asked him not to run and to serve as Tucker’s first assistant in the Secretary of State’s Office.
A key point of contention in the race was Tucker arguing that Schedler erred by taking an $861,000 state budget cut this year entirely out of museum operations and hours.
Schedler said he had no choice because 92 percent of the office’s $81 million budget is tied up in elections. He argued that Tucker and the state Legislature should have done more to limit the budget cuts.
Both agreed though that there is a need to look at the way state museums are overseen. Some are under Schedler while others are under the lieutenant governor.
Capitol News Editor Mark Ballard contributed to this report.