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Louisiana election headlined by tight race for governor

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Louisiana voters on Saturday might reelect a Democratic governor and pair him with a Republican supermajority in the legislature. Or they might elect a first-time candidate who would give the GOP a trifecta in state government.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, Louisiana’s only Democratic statewide elected official, is in a tight race with Republican Eddie Rispone, a Baton Rouge businessman.

Edwards currently is the only Democratic governor in the Deep South – though Democrat Andy Beshear will be Kentucky’s next chief executive – and both major national parties have poured money into the contest. President Donald Trump, who won the state by 20 points, has made three visits to Louisiana during the campaign.

Edwards, an attorney and former Army Ranger, has touted pay raises for teachers, improved funding for higher education, expanded access to Medicaid, and a string of economic development projects while making his case for reelection. He says he stabilized the state’s finances after inheriting a “$2 billion deficit” from former Gov. Bobby Jindal and argues Rispone’s administration would be much like Jindal’s.  

Rispone, the co-founder of a large industrial contractor, has stressed his alignment with Trump, describing himself as a fellow businessman and “conservative outsider.” He calls Edwards a “liberal trial lawyer” and says his business success demonstrates his ability to manage spending without raising taxes and jump start the state’s economy.

By all accounts the race is very close. In five polls taken in November, Edwards had an average lead of 48.7 percent to 46.9 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight.com.

Meanwhile, Republicans, who have already claimed two-thirds of the state Senate’s seats for the next term, have a chance to secure a supermajority in the state House of Representatives. Voting as a block, a supermajority can override a veto, raise taxes and fees, and put a potential constitutional amendment on the ballot.

In Louisiana elections, every candidate regardless of party runs on the same ballot in the first round. If no one gets more than half of the votes, the top two move on to the runoff.

Though 24 House seats are up for grabs in Saturday’s runoff, most feature two candidates of the same party. Only seven are being contested by both parties, and Republicans would need to win all seven to get to a supermajority.

The only statewide office on Saturday’s ballot other than governor is for Secretary of State, who oversees elections. Republican incumbent Kyle Ardoin will try to hold off Democrat Gwen Collins-Greenup in a rematch of the special election Ardoin easily won last year.

Voters in a Louisiana Supreme Court district outside New Orleans will choose between Will Crain and Hans Liljeberg, both Republican state appeals court judges, for a spot on the state’s highest court.

There are local candidate races in 61 of the state’s 64 parishes and local propositions in 44 parishes, according to the Secretary of State’s office. Ardoin is predicting 51 percent turnout.

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Voters can look up their polling location and view sample ballots at the Secretary of State’s online voter portal and on the Geaux Vote smartphone app.