BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana's runoff election featured three statewide races on Saturday's ballot, with most attention focused on the governor's race. But voters also decided competitions for lieutenant governor and attorney general.
Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards defeated Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter to become Louisiana's next governor.
Such a result wasn't even considered a possibility months ago, when Vitter was outraising and outspending his rivals and was presumed to have an easy waltz into the governor's office.
However, Vitter took hits in a bitter primary contest between Vitter and two other GOP rivals, with campaign ads and mailers repeatedly attacking Vitter's 2007 prostitution scandal and allegations that the U.S. senator's campaign was secretly recording political foes.
Vitter appeared to tighten the race by referencing the Paris terrorist attacks and using the issue of Syrian refugee resettlement to tie Edwards to President Barack Obama, who is unpopular in Louisiana. But it wasn't enough.
Edwards becomes the first Democrat to win statewide election in Louisiana since 2008.
At least $30 million was spent by candidates and outside groups, making it one of the highest spending governor's races in state history. The seat was open because Gov. Bobby Jindal is term-limited after eight years in office.
Republican Billy Nungesser will take over as Louisiana's lieutenant governor in January, after defeating Democrat Kip Holden.
The lieutenant governor's runoff was a quieter competition, with the two men trying to build off grassroots support and name recognition.
Holden, the Baton Rouge mayor, is a former city council member and state lawmaker. Nungesser is the former president of Plaquemines Parish.
Besides being second in line to the governor, the lieutenant governor leads Louisiana's Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism and serves as the figurehead for the state's $11 billion tourism industry.
The job was open because Republican Jay Dardenne ran unsuccessfully for governor.
Attorney General Buddy Caldwell won't keep his job for another term.
Republican challenger Jeff Landry defeated the GOP incumbent, ending Caldwell's tenure as Louisiana's top lawyer after two terms.
Landry, a one-term former congressman who received the endorsement of the state Republican Party, framed his entire campaign as a referendum on Caldwell's performance in office.
He accused the attorney general of corruption and cronyism in doling out state legal contracts to his campaign contributors. Landry and other Caldwell critics who ran attack ads against him called it a "Buddy system."
Caldwell talked of his experience after nearly 30 years as a northeast Louisiana district attorney. He said Landry had too little legal experience to run the state's top law office.
Two seats on the 11-member Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the state's top school board, were settled. The board sets policy for more than 700,000 public school students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Also receiving decisions on the runoff ballot were four of the state Senate's 39 seats and 14 of the 105 state House positions. Six of the House races included incumbents trying to hold onto their jobs.
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Posted on Sun, November 22, 2015
by MELINDA DESLATTE, Associated Press