Mary DuBuisson held a comfortable lead all Tuesday night in the race to succeed her former boss, Greg Cromer, in his Slidell-area legislative seat, but it wasn't until nearly midnight that it became clear who else would be in the Dec. 8 runoff for House District 90.
When the final precincts finally rolled in, the neck-and-neck battle between Sean Morrison and John Raymond for second place went to DuBuisson's fellow Republican Raymond, who came from behind to beat Morrison, the lone Democrat in the race, by 12 votes.
That razor-thin margin narrowed even further, to a mere five votes, after midnight, when the St. Tammany Parish Clerk of Court's Office manually entered data from a precinct where there had been a technical glitch with a voting machine cartridge that had shown no votes.
Morrison said Wednesday that he has not conceded the race and is trying to determine what the final count is and what his options are. "We want to make sure all of our supporters had an opportunity to be heard," he said.
But the final tally in complete but unofficial returns showed DuBuisson received 4,262 votes, or 29 percent. Raymond won 3,643 votes to Morrison's 3,638, or 25 percent each. Brian Glorioso, also a Republican, had 20 percent, with 2,912 votes.
DuBuisson said she is encouraged by her front-runner status.
"Over 4,000 people put their faith in me, believed in me and wanted to see me win," she said, adding that she's hoping voters who supported Morrison and Glorioso will throw their support to her.
"I feel like I have a good shot at that," she said, adding that some people on the campaign trail had said they would vote for her if their candidate didn't make a runoff.
Raymond, the pastor of New Horizons, a 500-member, non-denominational church in Slidell, said he doesn't anticipate endorsements from the other two candidates, adding that he will run his own race and continue appealing to voters who agree with his platform and values.
"It's a new race, and the score is zero to zero," he said.
St. Tammany Parish saw 54 percent turnout Tuesday, according to Clerk of Court Melissa Henry, which reflected high turnout across the country in the midterm congressional elections.
The Dec. 8 runoff ballot won't have that same buzz, and the timing also doesn't encourage high turnout, with early voting beginning Thanksgiving weekend.
But there are also runoffs in two School Board races in eastern St. Tammany that could bring out voters in the Slidell-area legislative district.
Both candidates said they plan to stick with the voter appeals they pushed in the primary.
"I'm going to keep with the same message," DuBuisson said, citing her experience as Cromer's legislative assistant for the last eight years. "I'm hoping my record will stand for itself."
Raymond said he is delivering the message that positive change is possible with his "Let's fix Louisiana" slogan. "That model won't change," he said. "The results of the midterms show we need strong conservative leadership in Baton Rouge to move it forward."