The four major candidates for governor hop-scotched around Louisiana on Thursday to shake hands with voters, conduct television and radio interviews, and make last-minute appeals to the undecided — all in advance of Saturday’s primary election.
Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle campaigned at a fish fry in Shreveport and did interviews with television stations there and in Monroe.
U.S. Sen. David Vitter appeared on a talk radio station in Lafayette, according to a post on social media, but his campaign provided no details of his other activities.
State Rep. John Bel Edwards was greeted by one well-wisher after another at the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union Hall in Metairie on Thursday night, as others in the crowd ate jambalaya and white beans in white plastic bowls, served from two giant black iron kettles.
Edwards was planning to thank the 250 people there for their support and ask them to help turn out the vote on Saturday.
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne spoke at lunch to 30 people at the Baton Rouge Downtown Kiwanis Club. He recalled his first visit with the club when he was at Westdale Middle School interviewing for the group’s Key Club International program.
Dardenne answered questions, making pointed asides about Vitter’s unwillingness to speak to groups that don’t submit their questions in advance.
One of the first questions was from Cecil Cavanaugh, a leader in the Tea Party of Louisiana, which believes the state operates too many higher education institutions. He asked which four-year colleges Dardenne would close as governor.
“None,” Dardenne replied.
While in retrospect the state probably shouldn’t have opened so many universities, Dardenne said, they have become ingrained in each region’s life and economy.
“It’s unrealistic to talk about closing any of them, at this point,” he said.
“It’s a tight race, and we need everybody to get out and vote for the only trusted conservative,” was Angelle’s message throughout Thursday.
Each of the four men is campaigning to succeed outgoing Gov. Bobby Jindal — who is term-limited — and become the state’s 64th governor, according to “Louisiana: A History,” edited by Bennett H. Wall. (Wikipedia says he’ll be the 56th.)
Most polls show Edwards leading Vitter by about 10 points. These same polls indicate that Angelle and Dardenne, however, are close enough to possibly sneak past Vitter to make the two-man runoff with Edwards on Nov. 21.
One decider for Angelle or Dardenne will be whether most of the 15 percent to 20 percent of undecided white voters breaks his way on election day or spreads among the three Republican candidates, which probably would benefit Vitter.
Undecided voters like Angelle and Dardenne much more than they do Vitter, according to a poll by Verne Kennedy for an independent group of businessmen and women that was widely circulated on Thursday.
For Edwards, the question is whether African-Americans — who form the core of the Democratic Party — will vote in solid numbers. African-American turnout was 25 percent lower during early voting this year compared with the 2014 U.S. Senate election, according to Ed Chervenak, a UNO political science professor.
Edwards touted one poll released Thursday that showed him leading the race with 40 percent of the vote.
Ryan Cross, Angelle’s campaign manager, emailed out a separate survey showing that his candidate and Vitter were “statistically tied” for second place.
The University of New Orleans released a third poll showing Vitter leading Edwards, with Angelle and Dardenne trailing far behind.
“Is this a joke?” tweeted a skeptical Cross.
The confusing results were enough to prompt Jeremy White on Twitter to write that the various polls “remind me of this,” and he attached a photo of hurricane tracking models going in a spray of directions.
Meanwhile, the candidates bombarded the airwaves with closing spots.
In Edwards’, several of his former classmates at West Point attest to his honesty and courage.
In Angelle’s, he looks into the camera and says, “I want your vote, and I won’t ever embarrass you.”
In Vitter’s, his wife Wendy says, “I know David Vitter better than anyone, and I can tell you he’ll make a great governor.”
In his ad, a tieless Dardenne stands in front of an exposed brick wall, refers to Jindal and Vitter and says, “It’s their money and power versus us. They don’t own you, because they don’t own me. There won’t be a second Louisiana Purchase.”
Seven outside groups have run television ads in the governor’s race, including a pro-Vitter spot by the Humane Society Legislative Fund featuring a German shepherd, reported Kytja Weir at the Center for Public Integrity, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit.
A super PAC supporting Angelle is running an ad that shows people holding their nose at the prospect of voting for Vitter and pivots to say they should vote for Angelle instead.
A super PAC supporting Vitter — the Fund for Louisiana’s Future — has one ad attacking Angelle for the Bayou Corne sinkhole and another attacking Dardenne as a government insider.
The pro-Vitter super PAC also has sent a mailer to homes linking Angelle to former Democratic Vice President Al Gore over the Internet.
Given their standing in the polls, Edwards and Vitter also are looking ahead by trying to raise money for an expected spot in the runoff. Edwards spent a couple of hours calling donors on Thursday.
“We expect to be in the runoff and expect to need a lot of financial resources to beat David Vitter,” said Mary-Patricia Wray, Edwards’ spokeswoman.
Two days earlier, Baton Rouge lobbyist Jimmy Burland sent an email to the “Louisiana Lobbyist Community” asking Vitter’s “most ardent donors to re-up for the runoff campaign IMMEDIATELY at the maximum contribution amount.”
LSU professor Bob Mann, who publishes a widely read blog, publicized Burland’s email.
The first fundraiser for Vitter with the lobbyists is scheduled for Sunday morning at Andrea’s restaurant in Metairie.
Mark Ballard, of The Advocate Capitol news bureau, contributed to this report.
Follow Tyler Bridges on Twitter, @TegBridges. For more coverage of the governor’s race, follow Louisiana Politics at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/.