After months of relentless campaigning the denouement of Louisiana’s most expensive election begins when polls open at 7 a.m. Saturday.
Both candidates spent Friday making their final pleas for votes. Three-term incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-New Orleans, began the day in Lake Charles, rallied in Lafayette, lunched in Baton Rouge and ended the day in Metairie.
U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, had two events — his first since Monday night’s televised debate — with Republican Senator-elect Joni Ernst, of Iowa.
Landrieu is the last Democratic senator in the Deep South and in 2008 was the last to be elected statewide. She has been fighting a red tide that has seen the Legislature and major state offices go to Republicans.
Landrieu has been the subject of dozens of articles by national media outlets over the past few days.
“I don’t pay attention to it,” Landrieu said, adding that three times she has entered the final week of the campaign behind in the polls, yet won on Election Day.
“It’s routine for me. I have every expectation of winning,” she said Friday.
Cassidy, gathered with about 75 supporters at the Louisiana Republican Party satellite office in Metairie, reprised his criticism of Landrieu’s support of an unpopular president. He led a call and response of “97 percent of the time,” an allusion to how often he says Landrieu supports President Barack Obama.
Landrieu repeated her criticism of the past few days about whether Cassidy performed the part-time LSU physician-educator work he was being paid for.
“This race may be over at 8 o’clock,” Landrieu said, “but this investigation will go on.”
The new and the old
The 6th District Congressional contest pits Republican Garret Graves, 42, in his first bid for elected office against former four-term Democrat Gov. Edwin Edwards, who won his first race 60 years ago for the Crowley City Council.
The district extends from southeast Baton Rouge to the suburbs west of New Orleans and through the bayou communities into parts of Houma.
It is considered one of the most GOP-friendly districts in the nation, and eight GOP contenders split 64 percent of the vote in the Nov. 4 primary.
Edwards, 87, led the field with 30 percent of the vote to 27 percent for Graves, a former aide to Gov. Bobby Jindal who oversaw the state’s coastal restoration efforts.
The seat is now held by Cassidy.
While the runoff has been a low-key affair, the race sparked national attention because of Edwards’ bid for a comeback after serving nearly a decade in prison on a racketeering conviction.
Local races up for grabs
Voters in Lafayette will decide whether to levy a 1-cent sales tax for only eight months, from April 1 to Nov. 30, 2015, to generate $37 million toward building a new airport terminal. The remainder of the total $90 million project would be funded from bonded debt repaid by airport revenue and from state and federal grants.
Lafayette voters also will decide on a 15th Judicial District judge runoff pitting Democrats Mark Allen Babineaux and Michelle Meaux Breaux; the District 1 School Board race between “Coach Don” Gagnard, no party affiliation, and Mary Morrison, a Democrat; runoffs for Lafayette city marshal, Scott City Council and Youngsville City Council; and a 4-cent hotel room tax proposition in Carencro for economic development.
In the 16th Judicial District covering Iberia, St. Martin and St. Mary parishes, Democrats Lucretia Pecantte and Curtis Sigur are in the runoff for the Division G judgeship.
40 percent turnout expected
Secretary of State Tom Schedler said he expects about 1.2 million — or 40 percent — of the state’s 2.9 million registered voters to cast ballots.
“Based on early voting statistics and historical data, I believe turnout will reach 40 to 42 percent for tomorrow’s general election,” Schedler said.
The Nov. 4 open primary vote saw 1.47 million votes cast or about 51.5 percent of registered voters. Though Landrieu led the field, 56 percent of the votes cast went to a Republican candidate.
But last month, Louisiana was part of the national election and was poised to play a role in which party would control the U.S. Senate. Decisive GOP wins mean that when the new Congress is sworn in next month, Republicans will control both houses. With that, the rest of the country pretty much lost interest in what happens here.
Also, Southern University is playing for the SWAC Championship at 3 p.m. in Houston and deer hunting opens fully on Saturday. Schedler said he expected a surge of votes when the polls opened and then could see another spike later in the day when the hunters come out of the woods. Polls close at 8 p.m.