Democratic donkey and Republican elephant butting heads. Vector illustration.

I’m sure it’s pure coincidence that Louisiana’s two favorite contact sports — politics and football — align closely on the calendar. Anticipation runs high among New Orleans Saints and LSU fans, and next week similarly marks the official kickoff of the political season.

Qualifying begins Tuesday, Aug. 6 and closes Thursday, Aug. 8 for statewide offices, legislative seats and local offices across the state. Just as in the other contact sport, we’re bound to see some surprises in the political arena even as the season just begins.

The governor’s race always draws the most interest, and often the most candidates. Democratic incumbent John Bel Edwards consistently leads in all polls, but his two main GOP opponents — Congressman Ralph Abraham of Alto (in northeast Louisiana) and businessman Eddie Rispone of Baton Rouge — are determined to spend millions between them to make it a close race. It’ll be interesting to see if any other big-name candidates jump into this race at the last minute. I make no predictions.

The down-ballot contests always seem to get short shrift, even those for statewide offices. Truth is, there hasn’t been much noise about those races, not even among challengers. The one exception appears to be the race for insurance commissioner. Incumbent Jim Donelon will seek a fourth full term after having been appointed in 2006. His only announced opponent is insurance executive Tim Temple of DeRidder, who promises to give Donelon a run for his money.

Locally, the hottest races will be in Jefferson Parish. As of press time, scandal-plagued parish President Mike Yenni had not officially announced whether he would seek a second term. Yenni has been a political pariah since he was caught in a sexting scandal several years ago.

Meanwhile, former parish President John Young and at-large Councilwoman Cynthia Lee-Sheng are lining up support and plastering the parish with signs in their quests for Yenni’s job. I’ll predict this much: This race will be expensive — and ugly.

Several races for Jefferson Parish Council will draw attention, partly because of term limits and partly because of scandal. District Councilman Ricky Templet has been the only big name mentioned for the at-large council seat vacated months ago by Chris Roberts, who stepped down shortly before he was indicted by the feds. In the other at-large contest (for Lee-Sheng’s current seat), District Councilman Paul Johnston and former TV news anchor Scott Walker will lock horns in a race that will be worth watching.

The hottest district council race in Jefferson could be the one for Mark Spears’ seat in District 3, the parish’s only majority-black district. Spears is term limited, setting off a pitched battle between former Councilman Byron Lee, former state Sen. Derrick Shepherd (who is running on a platform of “second chances” after his stint in federal prison for a money laundering scheme), and former parish administrator Jedidiah Jackson.

Other races to watch will be those to succeed term-limited state Reps. Walt Leger III and Neil Abramson in New Orleans, and a special election to fill a vacancy on the Louisiana Supreme Court in a district that includes parts of Jefferson and several entire Northshore parishes, including St. Tammany.

Football season lasts longer, but elections are typically bloodier.

Follow Clancy DuBos on Twitter: @clancygambit.

Email Gambit political editor Clancy DuBos at: clancy@gambitweekly.com.