It was almost 11 p.m. Saturday — nearly three hours into counting — before East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden’s place in the runoff for lieutenant governor was assured.
It took another hour to tally the votes of the final reported precincts to determine that former Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, a Republican, would face Holden, a Democrat, in the Nov. 21 runoff.
In the end, Nungesser polled 11,471 votes more — out of slightly more than 1 million cast — than GOP rival John Young, the president of Jefferson Parish.
Attorney General Buddy Caldwell finds himself in what could be a bitter runoff race with fellow Republican Jeff Landry, a former congressman.
Voters, statewide, easily reelected three other officials to run large state government agencies.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler, a Republican, fended off a challenge Saturday from Democrat Chris Tyson, a Baton Rouge law professor, to win a second term.
Schedler campaigned on his experience and efforts to streamline the elections calendar. Tyson wanted to modernize the office.
The secretary of state oversees elections, the archives of state records and documenting businesses.
State Treasurer John N. Kennedy, who writes the checks and chairs the Bond Commission, pulled 80 percent of the vote to beat fellow Republican Jennifer Treadway, a Baton Rouge lawyer. It’ll be his fifth term.
Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon fended off three rivals: Democrats Donald Hodge Jr. and Charlotte McDaniel McGehee, both Baton Rouge lawyers, and Republican Matt Parker, a Calhoun Republican who owns a body shop. Donelon argued his strategy of increasing competition would lead to lower insurance prices. His opponents said the tactics haven’t worked.
Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Mike Strain, a Republican veterinarian from Covington, overcame criticisms that the department’s budgets had been cut too much to win a third term. He handily defeated Charlie Greer, a Democrat and retired Agriculture Department employee from Natchitoches; Adrian “Ace” Juttner, a Green Party candidate from Abita Springs; and Jamie LaBranche, a Republican horticulturist from LaPlace.
If interest in the gubernatorial election was lukewarm at best, it was practically chilly for the rest of the statewide ballot, which elects the heads of large government agencies. Only 38.5 percent of the state’s registered voters — the second lowest turnout since 1998 — braved a rainy Saturday to cast ballots. But it was about 2 percent more — a roughly 70,000-vote drop-off — than voted for offices such as lieutenant governor, secretary of state and attorney general.
Young blamed the low turnout for upsetting his bid for lieutenant governor.
“Voters were not really focused on the race. We did everything we could,” Young said.
Young and Nungesser spent millions in often negative television and mailer advertising. Holden spent little and, because he was the only Democrat, was expected to win a spot in the runoff.
He’ll spend more over the next few weeks, but Holden added, “This campaign did not have to resort to some of the worst mud-slinging I’ve seen in my life.”
Holden said he would emphasize his ability to work across party lines and his talents as a salesman who will be the state’s chief promoter.
Nungesser said he would stress the differences between himself and Holden. “I’m a Republican, and he’s a Democrat. I’m a problem solver and businessman, not a lawyer,” Nungesser said.
Early indications are that the already expensive and mean-spirited race between Caldwell and Landry will continue.
Landry, a tea party favorite, released a statement moments after the election: “By a two-to-one margin, the voters rejected Buddy Caldwell; Louisiana is tired of his corruption, nepotism and cronyism.”
Seeking his third term as the state’s chief lawyer, Caldwell polled 35 percent of the slightly more than 1 million votes cast. Landry came in with about 29,000 fewer votes.
Landry was backed by energy and chemical interests, while Caldwell was endorsed by sheriffs and prosecutors.
In a flood of ads, Caldwell described Landry as a failed politician with no relevant legal experience, while Landry accused Caldwell of directing state contracts to cronies.
The two Democrats in the race were Geri Broussard Baloney, a Garyville lawyer, and Ike Jackson, of Plaquemine.
Former prosecutor Marty Maley, of Port Allen, ran as a Republican.
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