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Early-voting signs are displayed Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019, at the Lafayette Parish Registrar of Voters office in Lafayette, La.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and his Republican rival, Eddie Rispone, are neck and neck in the governor’s race that tops the ballot.

In addition, Louisiana voters are looking at a do-over in the secretary of state’s race as Republican Kyle Ardoin looks for a full four years against Democrat Gwen Collins-Greenup, who he beat last year in a special election to fill out the remainder of Tom Schedler’s term, which was cut short because sexual harassment allegations.

The Nov. 16 election is important for Lafayette Parish as voters will be selecting the next Lafayette Parish mayor-president.

Carlee Alm-LaBar and Josh Guillory are in the run-off for mayor-president.

Alm-LaBar, a no-party candidate from Lafayette, is a former development and planning director for Lafayette Consolidated Government, having worked during the administrations of former City-Parish President Joey Durel and current Mayor-President Joey Durel. This is her first  political race.

Guillory, a Republican from Lafayette, is former lieutenant in the Louisiana National Guard who served in the Middle East and a family law attorney. In 2018, he challenged Congressman Clay Higgins, a fellow Republican who recently endorsed Guillory for mayor-president.

Two Lafayette City Council races will be decided Nov. 16. District 1 voters will select between incumbent Pat Lewis, a Democrat, and newcomer Mark Pope, a Republican. In District 5, two Democrats are facing off, Janet Jackson and Glenn Lazard.

One Lafayette Parish Council race is to be determined Nov. 16, District 3, which pits Republican Josh Carlson against fellow Republican Jeremy Hidalgo.

The Louisiana Legislature is one seat away from having a veto-proof majority in the House – the Senate already has a two-thirds Republican majority. Twenty-four House seats and five Senate seats, out of the 144-seat Legislature, remain to be decided.

Two state House seats that encompass parts of Lafayette Parish will be decided Nov. 16, including House District 31, which was vacated by Rep. Nancy Landry, a Republican who resigned to work as chief of staff for Ardoin. In the runoff for her seat are Jonathan Goudeau and Gus Rantz, both Republicans.

The other House seat up for grabs is District 48, the seat being vacated by Taylor Barras, a Republican. Vying for that seat are "Beau" Beaullieu and Ricky Gonsoulin, both Republicans.

But the marquee race is at the top of the ballot.

Running for his first elective office, Rispone is well-known among Republican Party officials as someone willing to write big checks for GOP candidates and causes. He introduced himself through more than $11 million in televisions in which he tied himself to President Donald Trump. He says Louisiana needs an outsider with business skills to guide the state through what he calls tough economic times.

Rispone hasn’t been specific about his plans for the state, but his most oft-repeated policy initiative is to rewrite the state’s constitution.

Trump won the state by 20 percentage points in the 2016 presidential election and remains popular in Louisiana, though his numbers are low nationwide. He appeared before an exhuberant crowd in Lake Charles the day before the Oct. 12 primary to rally Republican voters for Rispone and his GOP opponent, U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, and against Edwards. The president will be making a second trip Wednesday, to Monroe, and possibly a third trip before the election in two weeks.

Edwards focused on his record over the past four years, including expanding Medicaid health care coverage to include the working poor, and ending years of budget deficits, which was accomplished through negotiation with a Republican-majority Legislature. And pushing through Once the budget stabilized, he was able to push through the first pay raise for teachers in a decade and provide more money for public schools and colleges.

Edwards came within about 40,000 votes of winning the primary outright winning 626,000 ballots. Rispone received 368,318 votes, or 27%, of the total, which coupled with Abraham’s votes gave the Republicans the majority.

Edwards and Rispone are locked into a race that either could win as the margin of error in two polls released last week that had virtually the same results. One poll was by JMC Analytics & Polling in Baton Rouge, and the other by Edgewater Research in New Orleans.

“Partisanship shapes preferences in this election, big time,” wrote Edward Chervenak, of Edgewater Research. “Neither candidate should expect any significant partisan crossover appeal.”

Early voters need to bring a photo ID, such as a Louisiana driver’s license, a Louisiana Special ID or the digital LA Wallet license. Voters without proper photo identification will have to sign an affidavit.

Early voters cast their ballots on new touchscreen voting machines.

Capitol Bureau editor Mark Ballard contributed to this report.


Email Claire Taylor at ctaylor@theadvocate.com.