The top Democratic vote-getter in last month’s primary on Monday endorsed the Republican challenger in the attorney general’s race.

Garyville lawyer Geri Broussard Baloney, who came in third in the five-candidate-primary, asked her supporters to vote for former congressman Jeff Landry, a tea party favorite, in his bid to unseat incumbent Attorney General Buddy Caldwell.

Early voting for the Nov. 21 general election begins Saturday.

Caldwell’s effort to win a third term as the state’s top legal counsel has been one of the most contentious statewide races, with accusations that favored law firms are routinely hired to represent state government in court.

Baloney told the Press Club of Baton Rouge that she’s backing Landry because he wants to change the way the Attorney General’s Office does business.

“I truly believe that Louisiana cannot take another (four) years of Buddy Caldwell’s bad practices and policies,” she said.

“Geri and I both know the Attorney General’s Office under Buddy Caldwell has been about rewarding the desires of a few, over the needs of the many,” Landry said.

The state Democratic Party endorsed Baloney in the primary, but she spent little money to compete with Landry and Caldwell, who each spent about $1 million before the Oct. 24 primary.

Caldwell, who was first elected as a Democrat in 2007, switched to the Republican Party in 2011 and faced no opposition for re-election that year.

Landry pointed out that Baloney gained more votes than any other African-American woman running for an office elected by all the state’s voters. She polled 187,575 votes, or 18 percent of the slightly more than 1 million cast. About 39 percent of the state’s voters participated in the primary.

Landry came up 28,802 votes shy of Caldwell, who led with 376,407 votes, or 35 percent of the total cast. Landry pointed out that two-thirds of the voters chose a candidate other than the incumbent.

Caldwell, who has attended only one forum with Landry, was invited but did not attend the Press Club forum at which Baloney made her announcement. Caldwell’s campaign said he was busy at another event.

His campaign emailed that Caldwell would have no comment about the endorsement.

The other Democrat in the race, Ike Jackson, of Plaquemine, received 115,188 votes. He said he would determine his endorsement after vetting the candidates’ position on House Bill 514, which would have set a deadline for informing the state if a lawsuit alleged a violation of a state-issued permit. Jackson said the idea, which didn’t pass the Legislature in the last session, amounts to a “get out of jail free” card for polluters.

A Tallulah native, Caldwell is supported by many district attorneys and sheriffs. He says Landry is an ideologue who has made a career of running for office and lacks the legal experience to represent Louisiana in court.

Landry, of New Iberia, is backed by chemical and energy interests. He says Caldwell is a phony conservative interested only in enriching supporters with state contracts.

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