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Kathy Edmonston

Kathy Edmonston, an outgoing state education panel member who said she can do more for schools in the Legislature but was attacked for taking campaign donations from trial lawyers, won the open state House 88 seat in Ascension Parish, complete but unofficial results show.

Though she trailed her opponent Brandon Trosclair in fundraising, Edmonston, 69, of Galvez, relied on her contacts in the local parish Republican Party establishment and a grassroots campaign to take 51% of the vote Saturday after finishing second in a three-person primary last month.

It was a close race: Edmonston won by only 294 votes out of more than 13,000 cast.

The two Republicans battled to replace outgoing two-term state Rep. Johnny Berthelot, R-Gonzales, who chose not to seek reelection, in the state legislative district entirely contained in Ascension and including Prairieville, Galvez, St. Amant and the Gonzales area.

Trosclair won the three-person Oct. 12 primary election with 45% of the vote. He led Edmonston by 1,067 votes. Edmonston garnered 36% of the vote. Ryan Beissinger, also a Republican, took third with 19%.

Trosclair and Edmonston staked out generally similar conservative positions on the size and spending in state government and promised to try to send more state dollars toward the parish's roads and other infrastructure.

Trosclair, who has backing from conservative businessman and prominent donor Lane Grigsby, had more aggressively advocated for the need for a constitutional convention, mirroring the positions of other Republicans in statewide and legislative races this fall. 

Edmonston, who works in the Ascension public schools, emphasized her experience with education policy after one term on the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, though she said she was outgunned by the number of charter school advocates on the board.

Sparks fly at Republican forum for state House race in Ascension Parish

During the campaign, each candidate had tried to question the other's fitness to run, and their conservative credentials.

Trosclair questioned why Edmonston would take donations and benefit from spending by an independent PAC funded largely by trial lawyers. He called her the candidate for the same trial lawyers who are harming the oil and gas industry with legacy suits and causing automobile rates to go up from frivolous litigation.

Trosclair has also charged the Edmonston didn't do enough while on BESE to block the Common Core educational curriculum in public schools. Trosclair said he is 100% against Common Core; Edmonston said she was on sole "no" vote in a key vote about Common Core during her time on the board.

Meanwhile, Edmonston attacked Trosclair's support for the A Better Ascension group, which unsuccessfully advocated for an appointed parish president last year, an idea she opposed.

She also questioned Trosclair's trustworthiness after his arrest and charging by prosecutors with a misapplication of funds count in 2006, which came to light during the campaign in an Advocate story.

The Napoleon PAC also attacked Trosclair over the charge with mailers and a video posted on Facebook.

The charge stemmed from a time when Trosclair worked as a homebuilder during the housing boom after Hurricane Katrina. Trosclair and his company also were tied up in litigation with homeowners and subcontractors.    

The criminal charge was dropped after Trosclair completed a pretrial diversion program. Trosclair said the incident was the result of an unfortunate situation and that he was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Email David J. Mitchell at dmitchell@theadvocate.com

Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.